The first two paragraphs below are a small piece of my son's story that I imagine many people can relate to:
After my son was dead, some of his friends told me they had been concerned about him. I did not know them, he had many friends from college and elsewhere in his adult life and was not living in my state. But they did not communicate with each other. They did not reach out beyond their immediate circle to find out what might be done. They did not try to contact me or any other family member or former professor, even though they knew he was in close communication and friendship with several of them - and they did know how to find them and who they were. They did their best, but they didn't know what to do.
A relative saw my son at a family event several months before he died when he was 2000 miles away from me and I hadn't seen him for months before that. His daughter, who was only a couple of years younger than my son and cared very much about him, went to her Dad and told him that my son was in trouble. She looked up to her Dad and expected him to do something. All he did was make a few calls to my son, who ignored him. He never contacted me, because he had issues with me- that had nothing to do with my child. He did nothing further, even though practically his entire family is in the mental health profession, and many of them were in good relationship with me and my son. He did nothing even though he was aware of serious mental health issues in his own family, but tell me this had happened- after my son was dead.
This message is for everyone: No matter what, it is not our prerogative to ignore someone who is in trouble. No matter what our relationship to the person, or their immediate family, our history or our issues, we all have a responsibility to spread the word when someone needs help. To not just take it on ourselves alone to be that person's support without getting more help. To not drop the issue if they don't respond to us. To not shut up and leave it for someone else to do when we haven't contacted anyone else and there is no plan in place. So what if we don't get a thankful response- in my case I would have been on my knees with gratitude for the information or any offer of help. Suicidal people can find it impossible to ask for help, or to keep asking if they have been rejected previously. Suicidal people cannot look after themselves. We all need to look after them to the best of our ability, even if it means swallowing pride or dislike to contact those who can help. If you don't know how to proceed, call a crisis line and get some input. Call a crisis line anyway. No one can take on the responsibility of saving someone's life from suicide all by themselves. It can be complicated- but so what. Life is complicated sometimes.
If you are a healthcare provider, make damn sure you are in contact with every other healthcare provider this person sees and with friends and family. Find out who they are. This is a life saving act. Share information.
Suicide prevention is a community issue, and a community responsibility. It is not private, it is not shameful. It is necessary. Many of the fortunate people who got the help they needed in time have gone on to lead wonderful lives and do very important things in this world.
Suicidal people are not a lost cause. They can be helped, and helping them will help everyone.
Please, if you know someone who is in pain, please swallow your pride, shove your fear and embarrassment to the side and step up and advocate for them. Reach out for them, because they cannot reach out for themselves. Even if they get mad at you, reach out for them. They may thank you later, but they may never get the chance if you don't help them now.