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What Can I Do to Help a Suicidal Person?

  • Learn the warning signs, risk factors, and protective factors surrounding suicide so you can better identify someone who may be depressed or suicidal. Honestly address your feelings about the issue.
  • Get comfortable with thinking about and discussing suicide, death, and guilt so that you can talk with others without fear. If you are not comfortable talking about these topics, others will not be either.
  • When approaching someone who may be depressed or suicidal, be willing to listen. Allow expression of all of their feelings like rage, sadness, crying, and loneliness. Try not to appear shocked at anything they tell you and be as non-judgmental as possible. Do not try and debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether their feelings are good or bad. Do not lecture them on the value of life. Listen as openly as possible to everything they are saying. Many times, they need someone to listen and hear their fears and thoughts out loud.
  • Never promise confidentiality. You may not be able to keep that promise. If they ask you to, you can say, “I care about you too much to not get help for you if I can. If I can find a way to help you feel better, I may have to tell someone what you told me. It’s more important that you stay alive. You’re just too important to me.”
  • Ask them directly if they have been thinking about suicide or homicide or harming themselves. You can restate this depending on the age, such as: “Are you thinking you don’t want to be here anymore? Are you thinking that it’s too hard to stay alive anymore?” You want to find out if they have: Suicidal thoughts and plans. If they have a plan, ask exactly what it is they intend to do.
  • Never dare a person to attempt suicide.
  • Stay with them. Do not leave them alone. Most suicides occur when people are alone.
  • Call 911 if there is ANY indication you / others may be in critical danger.
  • Call others to be with you. Don’t try to handle this alone.
  • Get help for the person. Call a doctor, therapist, family member or crisis center for help. Be available and show interest and support for them.

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