How Do You Respond to Someone Who May Be Suicidal or Mentally Disturbed?

Today I received an email from a woman who just seems to be... off. She says she feels suicidal but she's also experiencing a synchronicity involving a Gaelic word that means "sanctified." She has not requested a reading or inquired about how to book a private session with me. She just writes "Can you help me?"

Honestly, I get a very bad vibe from this message. My first thought is someone is trying to mess with me; my second thought is that maybe this is serious, but I'm not sure what I could possibly do for her.

How do you handle emails from someone who might be potentially disturbed?"

Kate, Intuitive Consultant

Less Obvious/ Less Serious Circumstances

Sometimes, a person may approach you in a way that causes "alarms" to go off and "red flags" to start waving -- you may not have anything specific or obvious that you can put your finger on -- it may just feel "off" or "odd."

Ignoring your intuition is one way to learn to honor your inner guidance -- the hard way.

Trust that there's a very good reason why your intuition or your instincts are triggered.

I recently had a powerful negative emotional reaction to a comment posted on my blog -- I went against my gut, approved the comment, and attempted to answer the questions of someone who definitely felt "off" to me.

Within minutes, this person was bombarding my site with a flood of additional comments -- attacking me personally, calling me every name in the book... Pure hatred and socially unacceptable behavior.

This always sucks. But, honestly, it happens much less often than I might have anticipated when I started doing this kind of work.

It happens very rarely, but it does happen.

Serious Circumstances (Physical Danger, Suicide)

When someone threatens suicide, confesses to feeling suicidal, just mentions the word "suicide" or even implies it indirectly by saying things like "I'm afraid of what I'll do" -- always take any instance surrounding suicide as real and serious.

Yes, there are people who throw the word "suicide" around loosely or imply it as a means of getting attention or emotionally manipulating others -- BUT ask yourself:

What is the difference between someone "just saying it" and someone who is truly in crisis?

People who claim they are considering suicide to manipulate, mess with, control, upset, or get attention from other people are not emotionally healthy, anyway. Period.

You can never know the difference with 100% certainty, beyond a shadow of a doubt; therefore, you should always assume any threat of suicide has real potential.

All academic training programs in any type of coaching, counseling, therapy, and/or social work universally advise this approach.

As an intuitive, psychic, spiritual adviser, energy healer, alternative practitioner -- whatever label you may use -- you will inevitably encounter clients with clinical psycho-therapeutic issues.

What I mean by the word "clinical" is that their circumstances require licensed, professional attention. Depending on your own education, level of training and certification, you may or may not be equipped (legally or practically) to provide that degree of care.

As a spiritual intuitive, the Universe may have given you the task of delivering a critical piece of advice, at a specific time, pointing a person in the right direction toward the care she needs. It could be potentially life-saving, so don't discount your role as "small" just because you are not the "final destination."

Here's how I might handle an email like the one you describe receiving:

"I'm really sorry that you're going through such a hard time. I'm glad that you contacted me because I believe your reaching out represents a real opportunity for you to turn this situation around. Sometimes, the best way for God or our spirit guides or the Universe to assist us is by putting us in touch with real people, in the real world, who have the skills and resources to truly make a difference.

I am very concerned that you're feeling suicidal and I want you to talk to someone who can help you better than I can...

Please call this number ______."

  1. Without contributing to the drama of the situation, simply be compassionate and acknowledge that she's having a difficult time.
  2. Commend her for reaching out to you (to anyone).
  3. Let her know you want to be sure she receives the assistance she needs, and you cannot offer that (this may be due to geographical distance, the limitations of email, or your degree of training -- be honest and say so).
  4. What you can do is encourage her that it's time to seek out another source of assistance, and direct her to contact a clinical psychotherapist, or a social worker, or a women's shelter in her area, depending on her situation.

It helps to have a few national hotlines, web links, or other resources handy for specific circumstances -- suicide, drug/alcohol abuse, domestic violence, pregnancy.

You can always do a quick web search before responding, but do that search for someone -- put her at least one step closer to contacting the assistance she needs.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


(United States)

I'd love to hear your own advice to Kate -- for all of us who do this kind of work.

How do you handle it when you're approached or contacted by someone "outside the comfortable norm" of your average client profile?

Slade's signature

image credit Kevin Dooley via Creative Commons on Flickr