Know How To Help
Instructions: Learn how to help someone who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. The most important thing you can do is ASK the person directly if they are thinking about suicide. If the answer is yes, assume you are the only person who can help them. Follow the other steps to ensure their immediate safety.
ASK if the person is thinking about suicide.
Be Direct. Use specific words like “suicide,” “kill yourself,” “take your life”
•“Have you had thoughts of suicide?”
•“Do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?”
•“Do you have a plan to kill yourself or take your life?”
•“Have you thought about when you would do it (today, tomorrow, next week)?”
•“Have you thought about what method you would use?”
Phrases to help jump start the conversation:
•“You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. Is there something going on?”
•“I know you, and something is going on. Let’s talk about it.”
•“Your stress level is off the charts. What’s going on? I want to help.”
•“I’m worried about you. Are you ok?”
LISTEN without judgement. Let the person talk without interruption and make them feel heard.
What to Listen For:
•Specific reasons to live
•Hope for the future/treatment
•Therapy compliance and alliance
•Specific reasons against death (religion, values)
•Connections to faith (community)
•Future orientation (school, jobs, children)
AVOID the following:
•Minimizing their problems or shaming a person into changing their mind.
•Sharing your opinion. Trying to convince a person suffering with a mental illness that it’s not that bad, or that they have everything to live for may increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness.
•Avoid arguing or challenging the person
•Avoid preaching or prophesying
•Avoid making promises (like keeping their secret).
If they say they are NOT suicidal:
Reassure the person that you are not there to judge them or do anything that makes them uncomfortable. You only want to understand their thoughts and feelings so together you can make the best choice for their health. Remind them that if they ever have suicidal thoughts that you are there to listen and ready and prepared to help.
What to do:
•Acknowledge that they are in pain and that their pain is REAL.
•Stay with the person
•Remove sharp objects or lethal means
•Go with the person to the ER or mental health clinic
•Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
CALL 911 in the event of a medical emergency (someone has caused bodily harm to themselves or is threatening to hurt themselves or others.)
Phrases that are helpful:
•”You are not alone. I’m here for you. "
•"I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
•“We will get through this together.”
RESPOND with kindness and care. Always take the person seriously.
FOLLOW-UP with the person and support their transition from crisis to recovery.
Try to follow up within the first 24-48 hours after a crisis.
You can help them overcome challenges after a suicidal crisis:
•People often experience increased loneliness or despair.
•They may not have been given appropriate referrals for continuation of care or have access to professional care.
•They may not want to continue care (you can help encourage them to make their follow-up appointments)
•If you can, go to them. Meet at their home or where it’s comfortable to them.
•Call them on the phone. A phone call is more personal than a text.
•Send a short text or email to check-in.