Suicide is preventable. If you think someone you know might be considering taking their own life, remember, it’s OK to ask. In fact, it’s the most responsible action you can take.
Psychologists tell us phrases such as “Are you OK?” or “You seem really down today. Tell me what’s going on” or “Tell me how you’re feeling right now” are door-openers to conversation. (Also see 5 Action Steps below). You must also ask directly: “Are you having thoughts about killing yourself?” (If that’s too uncomfortable for you, find someone who can ask).
It’s always better to ask directly than not to do so.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Noticeable change in behavior.
- Signs of depression (sleeping problems, change in appetite, feelings of hopelessness, etc.)
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Obsession with death.
- Decline in performance or participation in activities.
- Suicidal gesturing or reckless behavior.
- Giving away prized possessions.
- Unusual purchases (weapon, rope, pills).
- Sudden happiness after a prolonged depression.
- Talking about suicide or dying.
- Withdrawal from friends or family or saying goodbye to them.
- Previous suicide attempts.
- Statements about hopelessness, worthlessness, helplessness.
- Inability to concentrate or trouble remembering.
- Chronic pain or frequent complaints of physical symptoms.
Learn more by attending suicide prevention training – sign up for a class today!
What You Should Do
- Listen and express concern in a non-judgmental way.
- Take action. – get them connected with professional help.
- Ask questions openly (e.g., “Do you have a plan?” “Will you talk with someone who can help?”)
- Show that you care.
- Take suicide threats seriously.
- Save the suicide hotline numbers in your phone for quick access
What Should You NOT Do
- Do NOT keep it a secret.
- Do NOT sidestep the issue or treat it lightly.
- Do NOT leave the person alone.
- Do NOT offer simple solutions.
- Do NOT judge.
- Do NOT offer or suggest drugs or alcohol.
- Do NOT try to be a therapist – get professional help.
5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain
- Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk people if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
- Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
- Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
- Help them connect: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-8255 (TALK). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
- Stay Connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.
- End Teen Suicide
- Let’s Talk Colorado
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Resources for Survivors of Suicide Loss
- Suicide Grief Support – Tips & Resources
- Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions
- Suicide Prevention Brochure (English)
- Suicide Prevention Brochure (Spanish)
- Suicide Prevention Tips & Resources