Suicide Prevention Resources That Inform, Engage, and Educate. Learn how to spot the signs, provide support, separate fact from myth, and more.
How to Help Someone…
If I’m Not Sure They’re Suicidal
Unfortunately, the nature of suicidal thoughts often prevents disclosure, or sharing these feelings. People who believe that they don’t deserve to live may also feel like they don’t deserve support and are therefore hesitant to admit how they’re feeling.
If you are wondering if someone is suicidal, it’s probably because they’ve been giving some cues that they’re not doing well. Perhaps they have stopped engaging with life-affirming activities they once enjoyed, they seem distant and withdrawn, seem careless about hygiene or appointments.
Casual references to low self-worth are common:
“No one cares about me anymore.”
“There’s no reason for me to go on.”
“What’s the point of trying?”
Signals suggesting suicide are unique to the individual and can be any major change in behavior. It may be hard for a casual acquaintance to notice the change or see it as unusual but loved ones can usually recognize that something is wrong. If you notice any abrupt changes suggesting a lack of wellness, especially verbal cues hinting at suicide, it’s best to ask directly:
Signals suggesting suicide are unique to the individual and can be any major change in behavior. It may be hard for a casual acquaintance to notice the change or see it as unusual but loved ones can usually recognize that something is wrong.
If you notice any abrupt changes suggesting a lack of wellness, especially verbal cues hinting at suicide, it’s best to ask directly:
- First, point out the worrying cues: “You’ve been canceling on all of our plans, you haven’t been eating, and you keep saying there’s no point in going on anymore.”
- Then express your concern: “I care about you.”
- Normalize these as signs of suicide: “I know that this could mean that someone is thinking of ending their life.”
- Ask directly: “I want to know because I want to help you: Are you thinking of suicide?”
Who Has Told Me They're Suicidal
Disclosing thoughts of suicide is a painful, difficult thing to do. If someone admitted this to you it must mean that they trust you in some way, and are open to help that they believe you can provide.
Regardless of the reason, it’s generally a positive sign that someone chose to disclose to you. By telling someone else they are putting a barrier in place preventing them from attempting. They know a third party could potentially intervene by calling emergency services or getting others involved. The act of admitting their thoughts is a gesture and reach toward safety, so it is important to respond with empathy and gratitude:
Validate: Tell them that their feelings make sense, that it’s okay to feel the way they do. Many people fear this will encourage feelings of suicide, but in fact it encourages communication and connection, which helps decrease suicidal thoughts.
Ask Open-Ended Questions: Being curious shows they are valuable, that their opinions and perspectives matter. It will also help you understand where they’re coming from.
Paraphrase: As the person-at-risk is explaining their circumstances, paraphrase to clarify what they’re saying. It demonstrates that you’re listening intently and will allow them to evaluate if what they’re saying is what they want to be saying.
After feeling truly heard and listened to, people-at-risk usually de-escalate. The conversation naturally leads toward discussions of positive things, future plans, and most importantly: self-care.
Next, you should check for immediate safety by performing a suicide risk assessment and if possible, have a conversation about what they’ve been going through to help connect them to safety.
Who is Suicidal or in Crisis to De-escalate
While many people feel depressed, it does not mean they are in crisis or suicidal.
Suicide attempts usually happen during crisis periods. A crisis is usually short-term in nature, often lasting hours to days, and in some cases weeks. It does not go on forever. During this time, the person’s normal problem-solving strategies are not sufficient to bring the individual to his or her usual steady state. In short, the person is at risk of doing impulsive acts while in crisis, perhaps a suicide attempt or perhaps other risk-taking or health-harming behaviors.
When someone is in crisis, our goals tend to be short-term in nature.
We Try To:
- Bring the person back to the pre-crisis state.
- Keep the person supervised and safe until the crisis feelings pass.
- Remove potential methods of harm from the person’s surroundings.
- Help the person feel more control over their problems or life circumstances.
- Help the person create a safety plan, including identifying mental health or other services needed.
And if the situation is out of control or very high risk, call 911 and have the person taken to a psychiatric emergency service.
With Grief Following A Loss to Suicide
Why is death by suicide difficult for survivors to manage?
Suicide is an interpersonal act— “… murder of oneself by oneself,” as someone once said. While the emotional pain experienced by the victim is ended when he takes his life, it continues to live on in those left behind to grieve the loss.
When the death of a loved one by suicide is not completely unexpected—as in situations where the depressed person spoke of his intentions—survivors may navigate the grieving process with less difficulty than survivors of an unexpected suicide. Anticipatory grief acts as a buffer and protective force in the months that follow the loss. Survivors who had the chance to communicate with their depressed loved one and to listen to their concerns and fears may be comforted in knowing they provided any help they could.
However, when suicide occurs unexpectedly, it is common for survivors to feel betrayed by—or feel anger toward—the departed.
This type of grieving is a slow and painful process, and those left behind may harbor unresolved feelings of guilt, self-doubt, or self-loathing for not recognizing “the signs” or for ignoring their loved one’s efforts to communicate their intentions. The confusion and anger over why a loved one “chose” death over life—or over them—takes time and understanding to work through.
What is loss?
Loss is a severing of an attachment to someone resulting in a changed relationship.
What is grief?
Grief is a normal response to loss. It is a universal, human experience that may be experienced physically, behaviorally, socially, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. “Normal” grief symptoms that are common after a loss include a broad range of behaviors and feelings.
What is bereavement?
Bereavement is the total reaction to a loss, including the process of healing and recovery from the loss. It is the state of having suffered a loss.
Suicide Risk Assessment
Assess whether someone is at-risk of suicide. By asking practical questions, you can determine if the crisis is emotional or if there is also a physical component.
Learn the Warning Signs
Learn about the warning signs and how to respond to someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts. Identifying “intentional” and “unintentional” cues will help you spot the signs.
Removing Access to Means
Suicide is often an impulsive act and the methods used to ending one’s life varies. Learn about the ways you can identify and restrict access to methods of self-harm.
Myths & Facts About Suicide
By educating yourself on the reality of suicide, you can help address the stigma that allows myths to flourish. Learn more about the myths and facts of suicide.
Important Disclaimer: This information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. It is meant to support, not replace, the advice of a licensed health care or mental health care professional. It should not be used to make a diagnosis or replace or overrule a qualified health care provider’s judgment.