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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Stone, LMHC

Suicide Awareness: How to Help Someone Who May Be Considering Suicide

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This blog post is the 3rd in a series of 4 posts regarding suicide awareness.

Suicide is preventable! Talk about it.

Some individuals may be afraid to talk about suicide and/or concerned about jeopardizing a friendship by calling for support.

Instead, concern yourself with the individual’s welfare; it is better to risk a relationship than to risk someone’s life!

Tips for Talking to Someone about Suicide

  • Learn the warning signs and be on the lookout for them.

  • Get involved, express concern, and listen. Be supportive, empathetic, and non-judgmental.

  • It’s best to talk in private, if possible, so they can possibly feel more comfortable being open and honest.

  • Try your best not to act surprised or shocked. If you do, this will likely cause them to feel uneasy and withdraw from you.

  • Avoid any debates regarding whether suicide is right or wrong, or suicidal thoughts/feelings are good or bad, etc. Don’t lecture on the value of life.

  • Be direct. Ask the person if they are having thoughts of harming/killing themselves or someone else. Ask the person what plans they have to die.

  • It’s a myth that, by asking these questions, you would be putting the idea in their head. Don’t be afraid to ask outright if the person has thoughts about suicide and/or if they have plans to do it. You will not be giving them new ideas.

  • Don’t express doubt or minimize their thoughts, feelings, or plans and don’t dare them to do it.

  • Continue talking and ask how you can help.

  • Ask open-ended questions (e.g., “tell me more about…,” “can you tell me what you mean by…,” “how can I best support you with…”) to gain more information and keep the conversation going. Closed-ended questions (i.e., questions that can be answered with yes/no type responses) can be conversation enders.

  • Don’t ask “why” as this encourages defensiveness (e.g., “why do you feel…”).

  • Avoid giving advice, making decisions for them, or telling them to behave differently.

  • Offer hope that alternatives and support are available.

  • Offer empathy, not sympathy. Be with them, offer understanding and compassion, and provide support.

  • Do not keep this a secret. Take action! Get help from people or agencies that specialize in crisis intervention!

If you have immediate concerns about someone’s safety:

  • Call a help line, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or have an online crisis chat session with them.

  • Provide them with as much information as possible.

  • Never leave the person alone.

  • As long as it is safe for you, stay with the individual until support arrives.

  • If the person threatens or makes a suicide attempt, call 9-1-1 immediately.

What if a person expresses warning signs online?

If you know them personally and/or have ways to contact them privately, it’s always advisable to reach out to them and ask if they’re okay. Follow the guidelines above.

It’s also helpful to know that many platforms have online reporting sources are available. Here are some of them:

  • Facebook - Report Suicidal Content and/or access their Suicide Prevention Resources.

  • Google+ - Click “Report Post” from the post and provide information regarding why you’re reporting the post. Google also offers additional resources.

  • Instagram

  • MySpace - Click on the “Report Abuse” link that appears at the bottom of every MySpace page and complete the form. MySpace will then send an e-mail to the MySpace user with the Lifeline number.

  • Pinterest

  • Snapchat – Report the post here, by clicking “Report a Safety Concern” and completing the process.

  • Tumblr – Click the “share” icon, click “Report,” and provide additional info as needed.

  • Twitter

  • WordPress

  • YouTube - To report suicidal content, click on the flag icon under a video and select “Harmful Dangerous Acts” and then “Suicide or Self-Injury.” You Tube will then review the video and may send a message to the user that uploaded the video with the Lifeline number.

Looking for additional info? Check out this handy flyer!

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