How to be Helpful to Someone Who is Talking About Suicide



* Take it seriously.

* Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.

* Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.

* Be non-judgmental.

* Let the person know you care. Show interest and support.

* Get professional help immediately.

* Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.

* Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.


If possible ask the question “Are you thinking about committing suicide?” When someone answers” yes” to this question: always follow up with questions like, “Do you have a plan?” and “Do you have the means?” in order to assess the risk for suicide. If someone says yes to risk and/or plan, do not leave the person alone and persuade the person to get help. Call the University Health Center Mental Health Service at (301) 314-8106, call 911, or take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

If you are helping a friend who is exhibiting warning signs of suicide, it might also be a good idea to seek support for yourself.


 * Don’t try to cheer the person up or tell them to snap out of it.

 * Don't act shocked. This will put emotional distance between you and someone who is thinking about suicide.

 * Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.

 * Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.

 * Don't offer glib reassurance; offer hope that alternatives are available.

Talking openly about suicide does not encourage someone to commit suicide! The person will likely feel understood and that you get the pain that they are in. It can actually be a great relief if you can discuss suicide freely and without shock and disapproval. 

Information adapted from