When someone appears to be suicidal, we often don’t know how to respond. We might be afraid that if we ask the wrong question, we might “push them over the edge.” Or we might be uncertain that we don’t have the “right” answers or know how to handle their questions or fears.
So what should a person do if they suspect that someone is considering suicide?
Learn the warning signs of suicide.
If you’re not sure what they are, check our previous post. But here are a few:
Talking about suicide, even if it appears the person isn’t serious or committed to carrying out a plan.
Investigating the means of suicide. For instance, buying a gun or researching other methods of taking your life.
Feeling trapped and hopeless
Isolating, withdrawing, wanting to be left alone
Engaging in self-harming behaviors
Showing personality changes or evidence of different personalities
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Giving away belongings
Don’t be afraid to be honest. Be sensitive. Asking someone what they’re thinking won’t push them toward suicide. It may actually help by giving them an opportunity to express how they feel. But it’s important to find out if someone’s in immediate danger.
How are you coping with what’s going on?
Do you feel like giving up?
Have you ever thought about hurting yourself? Are you currently hurting yourself?
Have you ever thought about suicide?
Have you thought about how you would do it?
Do you have the means to carry out your plan?
Encourage the person to seek treatment.
Offer to come alongside them and help them get assistance and support. For instance, you can make phone calls and research options.
Encourage the person to talk to you or someone else. Feeling heard and understood can be a critical component to seeking help.
Don’t judge or offer easy answers. Be respectful and acknowledge the person’s feelings.
Never promise you won’t tell. A person’s safety is the top priority. Let them know you will always protect their life–even if they get angry with you.
Help them remove things that could cause self-harm–guns, knives, drugs.
Encourage the person to avoid drug and alcohol use.
Get emergency help if it’s needed.
If you think someone is in real danger of taking their life, take steps to get them help.
Don’t leave them alone.
Call 9-1-1 or a local emergency number. Or take the person to a nearby emergency room.
Try to assess whether or not the person may have taken an overdose, and if so, what.
Notify a close family member or friend.
Always take signs, threats, and suggestions of suicide seriously.