Suicidal feelings: Reading between the lines

Many clients come to see counsellors with a ready-prepared problem:

My husband's walked out.
My girlfriend is pregnant but I'm not the father. 
I've started a degree but I'm not sure I want to continue.
I was busy teaching one of the classes at my school when I started to have a panic attack. It's happened again this week and if it keeps on happening I won't be able to carry on doing the job.

So what connection do comments such as these have with suicidal feelings? Not all clients who make comments like those above are suicidal - but some are. Some suicidal clients can't bear to tell the counsellor directly; so they talk about another aspect of their life which, on the face of it at least, is less emotionally charged.

A counsellor has to listen very carefully and occasionally ask some searching questions. It's a very fine line to tread. You don't want to make someone feel suicidal if they are coping well with their problems. However, if someone is feeling that they want to end it all, then often the best way to help them stay safe and stay alive is to very gently explore their wish to die.

Sometimes counsellors have to read between the lines.

I hope that this will be my last therapy.
There's no point in carrying on.
No matter what I do, it'll all end badly.

Phrases like these and many similar ones do not necessarily indicate that someone is suicidal - but they might.

For reasons such as these, counsellors listen carefully, with care and caring.

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