How to help someone who may be suicidal

Many people who attempt suicide don’t really want to end their lives, but see no other way to escape their pain.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It is the second leading cause of death for ages 44 and under and the fifth leading cause of death for ages 45 – 54. For every woman who dies by suicide, four men die by suicide, but women are 3x more likely to attempt suicide. The emotional toll on survivors is often severe and long-lasting.


Know the signs

Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape emotional pain and suffering that has become intolerable. The person is often ambivalent about death but does not see any way out of his/her situation.


Watch for these warning signs, especially in people who are depressed:

  • The person talks about feeling hopeless, has no reason to live, or wants to die
  • He/she talks about being in unbearable pain with no way out, or feels like a burden to others
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Extreme mood swings


What you can do

  • Tell the person you're concerned about him/her.
  • Ask the person if he or she has been thinking about hurting himself. Does he/she have a plan? You aren’t “planting” the idea of suicide by asking direct questions. The more detailed the plan, the greater the immediate risk. If the answer is yes, you need to get professional help, even if the person argues or resists.
  • Don’t leave the person alone. Talk with him/her about your concerns and show that you care and want to help.
  • Listen to what he/she has to say. Don’t act shocked, judge him, or swear not to tell anyone else.
  • Remove dangerous items such as firearms or medications.
  • Call a suicide hotline such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and follow their advice.
  • Call 911 if the person is in immediate danger.


What not to do

Avoid these types of statements:

  • How could you think of killing yourself? Your life isn’t that bad. Other people have it a lot worse than you. This is a judgmental statement that shows no understanding or willingness to listen to the person’s inner pain. Even if on the surface the person appears to have a good life, he/she is experiencing something unbearable that prompts thoughts of death as the only solution.
  • Suicide is selfish and cowardly. How could you hurt us like that? The person already feels guilty. Piling on more guilt and shame will only make him/ her feel more worthless and close the door to further conversation.
  • You don’t really want to die. You’re just looking for attention. Anyone who displays suicidal thoughts or behaviors should always be taken seriously.
  • You have so much to live for. People who are suicidal feel so hopeless that they can’t see anything positive about their future. While this remark is well- intentioned, it fails to acknowledge the person’s emotional turmoil.



Additional Resources

There are many resources that provide crisis services suicide prevention education including:

If you suspect that a friend or family member is at risk for suicide, trust your instincts and take the threat of suicide seriously. Call 911. It is literally a matter of life or death.



Your program is here to help you along the journey of life. No situation is too big or too small. When you and your household members need assistance, reach out anytime and we will help get you on the right path to meet your needs.

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