Help Someone Else
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WHO FEELS SUICIDAL
If you are concerned about a friend who may be in emotional crisis or thinking of suicide, don't hesitate to reach out. There are a number of steps you can take to help ensure their safety.
What You Can Do» Know What to Watch ForSuicide preparedness is one of the best ways to ensure you’ll be ready to help a friend who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. Commit to learning the symptoms of depression and warning signs of suicide. Learn about resources in your community including mental health services. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US is also a great resource to memorize and use if you are concerned about a friend. The phone number for the Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255(TALK). Check out our section on LGBTQ to learn more about how you can help someone who is LGBTQ.
» Know What to DoStigma associated with mental illnesses can prevent people from getting help. Your willingness to talk about mental or emotional issues and suicide with a friend, family member, or co-worker can be the first step in getting them help and preventing suicide.
If You See the Warning Signs of Suicide…Begin a dialogue by asking questions. Suicidal thoughts are common with some mental illnesses and your willingness to talk about it in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way can be the help a person needs to seek professional help. Questions okay to ask:
Never keep a plan for suicide a secret. Don’t worry about risking a friendship if you truly feel a life is in danger. You have bigger things to worry about-someone’s life might be in danger! It is better to lose a relationship from violating a confidence than it is to go to a funeral. And most of the time they will come back and thank you for saving their life.
Don’t try to minimize problems or shame a person into changing their mind. Your opinion of a person’s situation is irrelevant. Trying to convince a person suffering with a mental illness that it’s not that bad, or that they have everything to live for may only increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Reassure them that help is available, that what they are experiencing is treatable, and that suicidal feelings are temporary. Life can get better!
If you feel the person isn’t in immediate danger, acknowledge the pain is legitimate and offer to work together to get help. Make sure you follow through. This is one instance where you must be tenacious in your follow-up. Help find a doctor or a mental health professional, participate in making the first phone call, or go along to the first appointment. If you’re in a position to help, don’t assume that your persistence is unwanted or intrusive. Risking your feelings to help save a life is a risk worth taking.
Help Someone Else
Share on facebookShare on twitterShare with emailIf someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. It’s important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support yourself.
Do They Need Your Help?Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline.
Contact a Lifeline Center
Never keep it a secret if a friend tells you about a plan to hurt themselves. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can find out what resources are available in your area, or encourage your loved one to call. Calls are routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area code that can provide you with local resources.
Use The Do's and Don'ts
Talking with and finding help for someone that may be suicidal can be difficult. Here are some tips that may help.
Use the 5 Action StepsThese evidence-based action steps provide a blueprint for reaching and helping someone in crisis.
Practice Active Listening
Hearing someone talk is different from actively listening to what that person is saying. Active listening requires concentration and understanding. Improving your listening skills is easy to do with practice and these helpful tips.
Acknowledge the Speaker
This can be as simple as a head nod or an “Uh huh.” By acknowledging the speaker, you are letting them know that you are listening to what they have to say and reminding yourself to pay attention to what is being said to you.
Asking questions or making statements may help clarify what the speaker is saying. It reminds the speaker that you are listening attentively and that you are here to help them and are truly concerned. Be sure to let the speaker finish talking before asking any questions.
Summarize What You Hear
Reflecting on what the listener is saying is also a positive verbal active listening technique. By repeating, paraphrasing or even summarizing what the speaker has said shows that you are putting in effort to better understand them. Use phrases like; “what I’m hearing is…”or, “sounds like you’re saying….” These tactics can also allow the speaker to hear what they are saying, which may help them find positive reinforcement.
Look the Part
Keeping eye contact, maintaining good posture, and staying focused are key components of active listening and interpersonal communication. Being distracted and unfocused gives the speaker the impression that you aren’t paying attention.
When you actively listen to someone, you are letting them know that you care about what they are saying and can indicate that you are concerned for their health and safety.