When Someone Answers "Yes!"
cALL 800-273-8255 or
text "sos" to 741741
to Help Someone who is Suicidal and Save a
How to Help
Someone who is Suicidal and Save a Life
If youre thinking about suicide, please read Are You Feeling Suicidal? or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text "SOS" to 741741 in the U.S.! To find a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit IASP or Suicide.org.
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide. What drives so many individuals to take their own lives? To those who are not in the grips of suicidal depression and despair, its difficult to understand what drives so many individuals to take their own lives. But a suicidal person is in so much pain that he or she can see no other option.
Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person cant see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just cant see one.
Common misconceptions about suicide
Myth: People who talk about suicide wont really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Dont ignore even indirect references to death or suicide. Statements like Youll be sorry when Im gone, I cant see any way out,no matter how casually or jokingly saidmay indicate serious suicidal feelings.
Myth: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.
Fact: Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They are upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.
Myth: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.
Myth: People who die by suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Fact: Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.
Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You dont give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is truebringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Source: SAVE Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
Warning signs of suicide
Take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. Its not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicideits a cry for help.
Most suicidal individuals give warning signs or signals of their intentions. The best way to prevent suicide is to recognize these warning signs and know how to respond if you spot them. If you believe that a friend or family member is suicidal, you can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives, showing that you care, and getting a doctor or psychologist involved.
Major warning signs for suicide include talking about killing or harming oneself, talking or writing a lot about death or dying, and seeking out things that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as weapons and drugs. These signals are even more dangerous if the person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, suffers from alcohol dependence, has previously attempted suicide, or has a family history of suicide.
A more subtle but equally dangerous warning sign of suicide is hopelessness. Studies have found that hopelessness is a strong predictor of suicide. People who feel hopeless may talk about unbearable feelings, predict a bleak future, and state that they have nothing to look forward to.
Other warning signs that point to a suicidal mind frame include dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as switching from outgoing to withdrawn or well-behaved to rebellious. A suicidal person may also lose interest in day-to-day activities, neglect his or her appearance, and show big changes in eating or sleeping habits.
Suicide warning signs include:
Talking about suicide Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as I wish I hadnt been born, If I see you again and Id be better off dead.
Seeking out lethal means Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (Theres no way out). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (Everyone would be better off without me).
Getting affairs in order Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they wont be seen again.
Withdrawing from others Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a death wish.
Sudden sense of calm A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.
Suicide prevention tip 1: Speak up if youre worried
If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if its a good idea to say anything. What if youre wrong? What if the person gets angry? In such situations, its natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate helpthe sooner the better.
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if youre unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You cant make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
I wanted to check in with you because you havent seemed yourself lately.
Questions you can ask:
When did you begin feeling like this?
Did something happen to make you start feeling this way?
How can I best support you right now?
Have you thought about getting help?
What you can say that helps:
You are not alone in this. Im here for you.
You may not believe it now, but the way youre feeling will change.
I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minutewhatever you can manage.
When talking to a suicidal person
Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, vent anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it is taking place is a positive sign.
Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, Im so depressed, I cant go on, ask the question: Are you having thoughts of suicide? You are not putting ideas in their head; you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that its OK for them to share their pain with you.
Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: You have so much to live for, Your suicide will hurt your family, or Look on the bright side.
Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
Offer ways to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly its hurting your friend or loved one.
Blame yourself. You cant fix someones depression. Your loved ones happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.
Tip 2: Respond quickly in a crisis
If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, its important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.
The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
Level of Suicide Risk
Low Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she wont attempt suicide.
Moderate Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isnt very lethal. Says he or she wont attempt suicide.
High Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she wont attempt suicide.
Severe Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will attempt suicide.
If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.
Tip 3: Offer help and support
If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Dont take responsibility, however, for healing your loved one. You can offer support, but you cant make a suicidal person get better. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.
It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As youre helping a suicidal person, dont forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trusta friend, family member, clergyman, or counselorto talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.
To help a suicidal person:
Get professional help. Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. Call a crisis line for advice and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctors appointment.
Follow-up on treatment. If the doctor prescribes medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as directed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. It often takes time and persistence to find the medication or therapy thats right for a particular person.
Be proactive. Those contemplating suicide often dont believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more proactive at offering assistance. Saying, Call me if you need anything is too vague. Dont wait for the person to call you or even to return your calls. Drop by, call again, invite the person out.
Encourage positive lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also extremely important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
Make a safety plan. Help the person develop a set of steps he or she promises to follow during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the persons doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
Remove potential means of suicide, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give them out only as the person needs them.
Continue your support over the long haul. Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at least 90 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from one or more mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or alcoholism. Depression in particular plays a large role in suicide. The difficulty that suicidal people have imagining a solution to their suffering is due in part to the distorted thinking caused by depression.
Common suicide risk factors include:
For some, depression medication causes an increaserather than a decreasein depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Because of this risk, the FDA advises that anyone taking antidepressants should be watched for increases in suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Monitoring is especially important if this is the persons first time on depression medication or if the dose has recently been changed. The risk of suicide is the greatest during the first two months of antidepressant treatment.
Suicide in teens and older adults
In addition to the general risk factors for suicide, both teenagers and older adults are at a higher risk of suicide.
Suicide in teens
Teenage suicide is a serious and growing problem. The teenage years can be emotionally turbulent and stressful. Teenagers face pressures to succeed and fit in. They may struggle with self-esteem issues, self-doubt, and feelings of alienation. For some, this leads to suicide. Depression is also a major risk factor for teen suicide.
Other risk factors for teenage suicide include:
Warning signs in teens
Additional warning signs that a teen may be considering suicide:
Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Suicide in the elderly
The highest suicide rates of any age group occur among persons aged 65 years and older. One contributing factor is depression in the elderly that is undiagnosed and untreated.
Other risk factors for suicide in the elderly include:
Warning signs in older adults
Additional warning signs that an elderly person may be contemplating suicide:
Source: University of Florida
Where to turn for help
Suicide crisis lines in the U.S.:
Suicide crisis lines worldwide:
When someone says he or she is thinking about suicide, or says things that sound as if the person is considering suicide, it can be very upsetting. You may not be sure what to do to help, whether you should take talk of suicide seriously, or if your intervention might make the situation worse. Taking action is always the best choice. Here's what to do.
Start by asking questions
The first step is to find out whether the person is in danger of acting on suicidal feelings. Be sensitive, but ask direct questions, such as:
How are you coping with what's been happening in your life?
Asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings won't push someone into doing something self-destructive. In fact, offering an opportunity to talk about feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.
Look for warning signs
You can't always tell when a loved one or friend is considering suicide. But here are some common signs:
For immediate help
If someone has attempted suicide:
If a friend or loved one talks or behaves in a way that makes you believe he or she might attempt suicide, don't try to handle the situation alone:
Teen suicide prevention
Teen Suicide Prevention
It may be hard to tell whether a friend or classmate is suicidal, and you may be afraid of taking action and being wrong. If someone's behavior or talk makes you think he or she might be suicidal, the person may be struggling with some major issues, even if not considering suicide at the moment. You can help the person get to the right resources.
If a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide, he or she needs professional help, even if suicide isn't an immediate danger. Here's what you can do.
Take all signs of suicidal behavior seriously
If someone says he or she is thinking of suicide or behaves in a way that makes you think the person may be suicidal, don't play it down or ignore the situation. Many people who kill themselves have expressed the intention at some point. You may worry that you're overreacting, but the safety of your friend or loved one is most important. Don't worry about straining your relationship when someone's life is at stake.
You're not responsible for preventing someone from taking his or her own life but your intervention may help the person see that other options are available to stay safe and get treatment.
Reach out Preventing teen suicide
The title is a bit misleading. It's not often that someone will come out and say, "I'm suicidal." But, if you've heard, "I can't go on," "I hate my life," or "There's no point" from someone you care about, you know that it's incredibly hard to know what to say next.
Following my last two posts on suicide prevention on college campuses, a friend wrote to me and shared that as a professor, he'd had a student disclose suicidal ideation. I can't tell you how many friends and colleagues have shared their fears about doing the right thing when a student - or friend, or family member - had expressed suicidality.
To offer some guidance, I put together the following tips. Yes, the context for these tips is suicide prevention. But, these are good things to keep in mind when talking with anyone about a difficult experience (depression, abuse, death or other loss):
1) Listen. I know it sounds simple, but it's profoundly true. You may be the first person they've told, or you may be the tenth. You might be the first to truly listen.
2) Be supportive, not dismissive. It's easier to think, "I have a lot on my plate right now and I can't take on a suicidal person" than to sit with a person and their feelings. But, your support is crucially important. Believe anyone who says that they are thinking about suicide and let them know that you care about them.
3) Know your limits. At the same time, if you are not a clinician, don't try to be a clinician. You don't need any special knowledge to be supportive, but know when it would be good to connect with someone trained to work more comprehensively with suicidal individuals. If you are talking with someone who has specific ideas about how they would end their life, connect them with a crisis center or clinician.
4) Know your resources. If nothing else, know the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1.800.273.8255). The Lifeline can be a resource for you, or for someone expressing suicidal thoughts. The Lifeline can also connect you to local crisis resources. If you're on a campus, know how to connect with the counseling center.
5) Get support - don't do it alone. Clinicians get supervision because the things they hear are extremely difficult, and sometimes talking about it can relieve some of the burden of hearing it. So, if you talk with someone about their suicidal thinking, it's important for you to talk to someone else. Ideally, that person has some experience dealing with challenging topics, so that they can be supportive of you.
It's a brave thing to talk to someone
about suicidal thinking - it's brave for the person saying
that they're thinking about ending their life, and it's
brave for the person who's listening to them share such
deeply personal thoughts. Listening and support are just the
first steps, but vitally important to preventing
What do you do if someone tells you he or she is going to kill themselves?
I didnt know how to answer that question until I listened to a presentation by Tom Ellis, PsyD, ABPP, director of Psychology at The Menninger Clinic.
I learned that first, you must remember that people thinking about taking their own lives are not thinking clearly. Theyre trying to find a solution for devastating, painful, overwhelm"Rick Warren Matthew Warren suicide"ing problems, and they believe, because their brain is not physically functioning, that suicide is the answer. They have tunnel vision; theyre suffering so badly it physically hurts them; and they have zero hope. Their brain is not functioning just as peoples hearts, kidneys, knees and sciatic nerves do not function, which is why its ridiculous to make people feel ashamed because they have a mental health issue. Bully for Pastor Rick Warren for pointing out that lapse in logic after his son, Matthew, took his life.
Second, be honored that the person in front of you talking about suicide trusts you.
From Dr. Ellis, I learned to say to them, "Im listening. Im here. I care about you. Im scared. Lets get some help."
I would add: Ill help you find a therapist.
And: Ill drive and wait with you. I wont leave you.
Id also add:
If you dont like the first therapist, well find one you do like. There are other solutions to your pain, and the therapist you like will help you find them. I will NOT be better off if you die. I will be worse off, and it will sadden me for the rest of my life.
Dr. Ellis said to take all suicide communication seriously. He also said its an act of courage for a therapist and patient to talk about suicide.
Life-saving therapists say things like, Lets talk about ways of keeping you safe without going to the hospital. Tell me about the pain that makes you want to die and what makes you want to live.
I hope I never have to use Dr.
Ellis wisdom, but now, at least, I feel somewhat
The 61-year-old celebrity chef and television host Anthony Bourdain took his own life. He hanged himself in his hotel bathroom in Kaysersberg, France, using the belt from his hotel bathrobe.
According to prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny, toxicology tests will be performed to see whether Bourdain took any medications, which may help his family understand what led him to kill himself.
He said, There is no element that makes us suspect that someone came into the room at any moment.
The cold hard truth about suicide
The World Health Organization estimates that globally close to 800 000 people die from suicide every year thats one person every 40 seconds.
Suicide is a terrifying idea to explore but before we go into how you can help, here are some of the worst things you can do:
What to look out for
According to Dr Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, you must look for changes in pattern. "People can only keep things hidden to a certain extent. If you think about it, our behaviour patterns are in a pretty tight and narrow range. Your radar will go off if someone you know is acting differently, because you know their patterns."
She continues, "Even if your instincts are to avoid the person because you're afraid you dont know enough or that you might offend the person, you may be the only one who is noticing and who will reach out. Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide."
Remember, too, that someone who is contemplating suicide will not necessarily call a helpline you may need to step in and help.
Take any suicide threat seriously
Dr Moutier says the best thing you can do if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal is to start an honest, caring conversation where you listen more than you talk. If you notice any signs indicating that they feel hopeless, depressed or trapped, be direct and ask them if they are having suicidal thoughts.
"Thats not going to make them worse; its not going to plant a seed. If youve created a safe environment to have this conversation, they will feel a sense of relief that theyve been able to share this experience with someone whos not judging them," says Dr Moutier.
If someone says they want to die, dont ignore them. The National Institute of Mental Health says "suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress and alert that someone needs help. Any warning sign or symptom of suicide should not be ignored. All talk of suicide should be taken seriously and requires attention. Threatening to die by suicide is not a normal response to stress and shout not be taken lightly."
It's also important to know that almost every single person who has attempted suicide has given some kind of warning. Take note of statements such as Youll be sorry when Im gone or I cant see any way out they may indicate suicidal feelings.
How to talk about suicide
Stacey Freedenthal, a Denver psychotherapist, consultant, and associate professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, has had extensive experience in dealing with suicide prevention. She has also compiled a useful list of things to say should you find yourself in a difficult position with a loved one who is suicidal.
1. Im glad you told me youre thinking of suicide
Its natural to react with anger or disbelief when someone tells you they are thinking of suicide but that will only cause the person to regret having told you, which may push them away. When you tell them you are glad they told you what they are thinking, you are letting them know you can handle the situation, and that you encourage honesty and disclosure.
2. Im sad to hear youre hurting
Empathy can go a long way, particularly towards validating the person's pain and helping soothe their loneliness. You cannot say, It could be much worse or You dont really mean that or But you have so much to live for. Do not diminish the pain that they are feeling right now.
3. 'Whats happening to you that makes you want to die?'
Asking them to tell their story of why they want to die shows them that you really care and want to understand. Make sure you really listen to their story. Follow up with more invitations to share, such as "Tell me more." You can show empathy or understanding by saying, That sounds terrible or I can see why you're in pain."
4. 'When do you think youll act on your suicidal thoughts?'
Freedenthal says that even if youre not a mental health professional, "you still can ask some basic questions to help understand the persons risk for suicide. Asking about timing will make the difference between whether you need to call someone immediately for help, for example, if the person says, 'I have a gun in my backpack and Im going to shoot myself during lunch', or whether you can continue to have leisurely conversation with the person."
5. 'What can I do to help?'
Sharing resources that may help them is good, but you also need to make them understand that you are available to help too. "That said, theres only so much you can do, so if you are feeling solely responsible for keeping the person alive, its best to involve others, too," writes Freedenthal.
Never ignore the warning signs
Suicide warning signs can be subtle or obvious, and include:
If a person has a sudden sense of calm
and happiness after going through an extremely bad
depressive episode, it could mean they have decided to
10 Things to Say to
a Suicidal Person
Sometimes people complain to me that the post describes what not to say, but it doesnt say enough about what to say. Theyre right. So in this post, I provide 10 things to say to a suicidal person.
First, Some Caveats
Before starting, I want to make some things clear: I came up with this list based on my conversations with suicidal individuals in my work as a clinical social worker, my readings of both clinical literature and accounts by individuals who experienced suicidal crises, and my own past experiences with suicidal thoughts. Nobody has actually researched systematically the most effective things for friends or family to say to a suicidal person, so opinion and experience are the best weve got for now. Results will vary according to different peoples needs and personalities.
I also want to make clear that this list of things to say is not intended to be a script. Instead, I illustrate ways that you can help a suicidal person continue to open up, rather than shutting the person down with a comment that minimizes, invalidates, or even denigrates the persons experience.
And I want to add that what to say often isnt nearly as important as how to listen. As I explain in my post How Would You Listen to a Person on the Roof?, someone who is thinking of suicide needs to feel understood. Let the person tell their story. Refrain from immediately trying to fix the situation or make the person feel better. These efforts, however well intended, can halt the conversation.
So, with all that said, here are 10 things you can say to someone who tells you that they are considering suicide.
1. Im so glad you told me that youre thinking of suicide.
When someone discloses suicidal thoughts, some parents, partners, friends and others react with anger (Dont be stupid!), pain (How could you think of hurting me like that?), or disbelief (You cant be serious.) Some freak out. A suicidal person might then feel a need to comfort the hurt person, provide a defense to the angry person, or retreat internally from the disbelieving person. The person might regret ever having shared in the first place that they were thinking of suicide.
By saying Im glad you told me or something similar you convey that you welcome and encourage disclosure of suicidal thoughts, and that you can handle it.
2. Im sad youre hurting like this.
This simple expression of empathy can go a long way toward validating the persons pain and soothing a sense of aloneness. Theres no Oh its not so bad, no You dont really mean that, no But you have so much going for you, no other statement denying or minimizing the persons pain.
3. Whats going on that makes you want to die?
This invitation to the suicidal person to tell their story can provide validation, engender a sense of connection, and show that you really want to understand. Ask the person to tell their story. And then, listen. Really listen. To deepen your understanding, follow up with more invitations to share, like Tell me more. Show empathy and understanding, too: That sounds awful or I can see why thats painful.
4. When do you think youll act on your suicidal thoughts?
Even if youre not a mental health professional, you still can ask some basic questions to help understand the persons risk for suicide. Asking about timing will make the difference between whether you need to call someone immediately for help (for example, if the person says, I have a gun in my backpack and Im going to shoot myself during lunch) or whether you can continue to have leisurely conversation with the person.
5. What ways do you think of killing yourself?
This is another risk-assessment question. The answer can help reveal the gravity of the situation. A person who has put a lot of time and thought into suicide methods might be in more danger than someone with a vague wish to be dead, for example.
Understanding the suicide methods that the person has considered also will help you in your efforts to keep the person safe. For example, if youre a parent and your teenage child discloses suicidal thoughts, knowing that your teenager is considering overdosing on a painkiller alerts you to the need to lock up or throw away all potentially dangerous medications. (See this information from the Center for Youth for ways to make your home safer.)
6. Do you have access to a gun?
Even if you think the person doesnt own a gun or cant get a hold of one, this information is always important. If the answer is yes, ask the person to consider giving the gun (or a key piece of the gun) to someone, locking the gun up and giving someone the key, or doing something else to make the home gun-free until the danger of suicide goes down. For more information about firearm safety related to suicide risk, also see this gun safety fact sheet.
7. Help is available.
By telling the person about help thats available, you can help them to not feel so alone, helpless, or hopeless. If you are in the U.S., you can give them the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.8255) or the Crisis Text Line: text SOS to 741741. You also can show them the SpeakingOfSuicide.com Resources page, which lists other resources in the U.S. and worldwide to receive help by phone, email, text, or online chat. If the person who reveals suicidal thoughts to you is your child, take them to a mental health professional or an emergency room for an evaluation.
8. What can I do to help?
Definitely tell the person about resources for help, but also make clear that you are available, too, if youre able to do so. That said, theres only so much you can do, so if you are feeling solely responsible for keeping the person alive, its best to involve others, too.
9. I care about you, and I would be so sad if you died by suicide.
Be careful here. In my earlier post, one of the 10 things not to say is, Dont you know I would be devastated if you killed yourself? How could you think of hurting me like that? As I note in that post, Your loved one already feels awful. Heaping guilt on top of that is not going to help them feel soothed, understood, or welcome to tell you more.
At the same time, a simple statement of how much you care about or love the person can help nurture a sense of connection, if your statement isnt an attempt to stop the person from talking further about suicide.
10. I hope youll keep talking to me about your thoughts of suicide.
Just as you want the person to feel welcome for having shared their suicidal thoughts to you, its good to make clear that you would welcome further disclosures, as well. Often, someone who has suicidal thoughts senses from others an expectation to get over it already. By inviting the person to come to you again about their suicidal thoughts, you can help prevent isolation and secrecy.
What Are Your Ideas about What to Say to a Suicidal Person?
There are many other helpful responses
besides those listed here. If you have thoughts of suicide,
what do you wish someone would say to you if you told them?
If you have ever helped a suicidal friend or family member,
what responses from you seemed to foster sharing,
connection, and safety? Please feel free to leave a comment
Everyone feels sad, depressed, or angry sometimes especially when dealing with the pressures of school, friends, and family. But some people may feel sadness or hopelessness that just won't go away, and even small problems may seem like too much to handle.
Depression can affect many areas of a person's life and outlook. Someone who has very intense feelings of depression, emotional pain, or irritability may begin to think about suicide.
You may have heard that people who talk about suicide won't actually go through with it. That's not true. People who talk about suicide may be likely to try it.
As a friend, you may also know if the person is going through some tough times. Sometimes, a specific event, stress, or crisis like a relationship breaking up or a death in the family can trigger suicidal behavior in someone who is already feeling depressed and showing the warning signs listed above.
What You Can Do
If you have a friend who is talking about suicide or showing other warning signs, don't wait to see if he or she starts to feel better. Talk about it. Most of the time, people who are considering suicide are willing to discuss it if someone asks them out of concern and care.
Some people (both teens and adults) are reluctant to ask teens if they have been thinking about suicide or hurting themselves. That's because they're afraid that, by asking, they may plant the idea of suicide. This is not true. It is always a good thing to ask.
Starting the conversation with someone you think may be considering suicide helps in many ways. First, it allows you to get help for the person. Second, just talking about it may help the person to feel less alone, less isolated, and more cared about and understood the opposite of the feelings that may have led to suicidal thinking to begin with. Third, talking may provide a chance to consider that there may be another solution.
Asking someone if he or she is having thoughts about suicide can be difficult. Sometimes it helps to let your friend know why you are asking. For instance, you might say, "I've noticed that you've been talking a lot about wanting to be dead. Have you been having thoughts about trying to kill yourself?"
Listen to your friend without judging and offer reassurance that you're there and you care. If you think your friend is in immediate danger, stay close make sure he or she isn't left alone.
Even if you're sworn to secrecy and you feel like you'll be betraying your friend if you tell, you should still get help. Share your concerns with an adult you trust as soon as possible. You can also call the toll-free number for a suicide crisis line (like 1-800-SUICIDE) or a local emergency number (911).
The important thing is to notify a responsible adult. Although it may be tempting to try to help your friend on your own, it's always safest to get help.
Sometimes even if you get help and adults intervene, a friend or classmate may attempt or die by suicide. When this happens, it's common to have many different emotions. Some teens say they feel guilty especially if they felt they could have interpreted their friend's actions and words better. Others say they feel angry with the person for doing something so selfish. Still others say they feel nothing at all they are too filled with grief to process their emotions.
When someone attempts suicide, those who know that person may feel afraid or uncomfortable about talking to him or her. Try to overcome these feelings of discomfort this is a time when someone absolutely needs to feel connected to others.
If you are having difficulty dealing
with a friend or classmate's suicide, it's best to talk to
an adult you trust. Feeling grief after a friend dies by
suicide is normal. But if that sadness begins to interfere
with your everyday life, it's a sign that you may need to
speak with someone about your feelings.