If you or someone you love is currently experiencing suicidal thoughts, immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline available 24/7 at 800-273-8255 or call 911.
September is Suicide Awareness Month. Suicide is a difficult and often painful thing for many people to talk about, but I have some good news- suicide can often times be prevented (1). There are some fairly consistent warning signs that someone may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, which you can learn about here (https://www.healthline.com/health/suicide-and-suicidal-behavior).
Here are 5 ways to support someone if you think they might be suicidal – hint: support, care, connection, and belonging play a huge role!
- Ask Them Directly and Non-Judgmentally
It can be intimidating, but the best thing to do is to ask directly, “are you having thoughts of suicide?” (1;2). Asking them directly and non-judgmentally can ease their anxiety and opens up the conversation. Remember to be encouraging, reassuring, and to remain calm, while avoiding toxic positivity statements (like, “it could be worse” or “try to have a positive attitude!” learn more here https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-man-cave/201908/toxic-positivity-dont-always-look-the-bright-side).
- Believe Them
It can be easy to not take someone seriously if they say they’re suicidal. You could think it’s a joke or that they are being dramatic. Even if you think that, you should always take it seriously and ask them directly if this is something they are considering (1). At the very least, they know you care about them, and at the most, you could have saved their life.
- Keep Them Safe and Connect Them To Mental Health Services Immediately
Make sure to stay with the person until they get connected to emergency services (1;2)
If there is concern, immediately call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or call 911.
The Lifeline has counselors that are trained and are available 24/7. As a loved one to someone experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can also call the Lifeline and get advice on how to deal with your situation.
- Help Them Feel Connected
Social connections and support from community, family, friends, etc. can help them find belonging and decrease their risk of acting on suicidal thoughts (1)
Support them in getting access to mental health services by helping them find a provider, set appointments, with transportation, or adding the emergency hotline as a contact in their phone.
- Check In Regularly
Follow up with them regularly to make sure they are feeling connected and supported (1). Suicidal thoughts can often resurface so even if someone seems to be doing well, a bad day could bring back those thoughts and the possibility of suicidal completion.
People considering suicide often do not want to die, but rather escape their pain. Human connection and support with mental health services can encourage someone who has had suicidal thoughts to believe that they can live a fulfilling life (1; 2).
National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) * has a variety of mental health resources and educational material
Warning Signs of Suicide for Teens (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/tween-and-teen-health/in-depth/teen-suicide/art-20044308)
Warning Signs of Suicide for Children
Warning signs of Suicide for Older Adults