It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide. If someone you know has any warning signs, you are encouraged to call The Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to find resources in your area, such as counseling or inpatient treatment centers for your friend or family member. Most importantly, please encourage them to call the Lifeline.
For people facing depression and suicidal thoughts, asking for help can be frightening and embarrassing. Individuals often don’t seek help because of the stigma associated with asking for help, limited access to treatment, the shame they feel about having these thoughts and/or no one recognizes their call for help.
If someone comes to you asking for help, the most important thing you can do is be there to listen and encourage them to seek help from a professional.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are asked to help:
- Do not make jokes about your loved one’s feelings and thoughts. Take them seriously.
- Do not discount the individual’s feelings and thoughts by saying “It’s just the blues,” or “Everyone goes through this.”
- Do not assume the person asked others for help. Be the one to step-up and encourage your loved one to seek help from a professional.
- Do not ignore your loved one and leave them to their own isolation.
- Do not dare him or her to do it.
- Do not act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Do not be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
In many cases, an individual with suicidal thoughts does not ask for or seek help. You can help prevent suicide by learning to recognize the signs of someone at risk, taking those signs seriously and knowing how to respond to them.
For people exhibiting these signs, you can:
- Say, “I want you to live.” → could this potentially elicit guilt?
- Encourage them to seek help from a professional. Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not glib reassurance.
- Ask direct questions without being judgmental. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
- Ask directly if they are having suicidal thoughts. Determine if the person has a specific plan to carry out the suicide. The more detailed the plan, the greater the risk.
- If you feel that you cannot ask if they are contemplating suicide, find someone who can such as another friend, family member, clergy or health professional.
- Be willing to listen, allowing them to express their feelings and accepting their feelings.
- Take action by removing means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
- Get involved, becoming available and showing interest and support.
- Stay in contact with the person.
- Be aware and learn the warning signs.
Be Aware of Feelings
Many people at some time in their lives think about suicide. Most decide to live because they eventually come to realize that the crisis is temporary and death is permanent. On the other hand, people having a crisis sometimes perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control.
These are some of the feelings and thoughts they experience:
- Can’t stop the pain
- Can’t think clearly
- Can’t make decisions
- Can’t see any way out
- Can’t sleep, eat or work
- Can’t get out of depression
- Can’t make the sadness go away
- Can’t see a future without pain
- Can’t see themselves as worthwhile
- Can’t get someone’s attention
- Can’t seem to get control
If someone comes to you, show your support and love by encouraging them to seek help from a
professional. Remember, you could be the one person that gives your loved one the courage to seek
this professional assistance.
If you know someone who is having suicidal thoughts, seek professional help immediately or call
1-800-273-TALK (8255) or use the It Only Takes One ZIP Code Directory to find a resource near you.
If you feel it is an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately, or take your loved one to the nearest emergency room.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
- A Guide for Medical Professionals in the Emergency Department