Many of us want to help a friend or loved one, but don't know where to start.
You may be wondering how to help someone you care about who may be suicidal. This can be a frightening concern and people often wonder what they can do while worrying about doing the wrong thing.
There are many things that can help; here are some of the most important:
- Be aware of and learn the suicide warning signs.
- Get involved and show interest and support.
- Ask the person if they are having thoughts of suicide.
- Be direct and use the word “suicide” or “killing yourself.”
- Be willing to listen and accept the person’s feelings.
- Don’t judge the person for their feelings or thoughts or lecture them.
- Never dare them to “just do it.”
- Try to avoid “why” questions – these tend to make people defensive.
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy, it will be important for you and the person who may be thinking of suicide to have additional support.
- Do offer hope that alternatives to suicide are available.
- If there are lethal means to suicide available, remove the means. Get help from agencies specializing in crisis and suicide prevention.
Here are some ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide:
- Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Don’t dare them to do it.
- Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
- Take action. Remove means, such as firearms or stockpiled pills.
If you believe someone is at risk for suicide or has made a suicide attempt:
- Don't leave the person alone.
- Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room yourself.
- Try to find out if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose.
- Tell a family member or friend right away what's going on.
Important facts to remember:
- Suicide is preventable. Most people do want to live but are unable to see through their pain to what other choices they have.
- Talking about suicide does not cause someone to be suicidal.
- You can help save a life by caring, listening and acting to get help.