Ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide

Here are some ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide or engaging in suicidal behaviors

  • Be aware of the risk factors and warning signs for suicide and know where to get help
  • Be direct and talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide, what you have observed, and what your concerns are regarding his/her well-being
  • Be willing to listen and allow their expression of feelings, accept and validate those feelings, and be patient
  • Be non-judgmental and don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong or whether the person’s feelings are good or bad
  • Be available and show interest, understanding, and support
  • Take action by removing lethal means of self-harm such as pills, ropes, firearms, alcohol or other drugs
  • Get help from others with more experience and expertise
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but don’t offer reassurances that any one alternative will turn things around in the near future
  • Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a mental health professional as soon as possible and ensure that an appointment is made
  • Don’t give a lecture on the value of life
  • Don’t dare him/her to engage in suicidal behaviors
  • Don’t act shocked
  • Don’t ask “why”
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy

Individuals contemplating suicide often don’t believe that they can be helped, so be active and persistent in helping them to get the resources they need. And, after helping a friend, family member, or patient during a mental health crisis, be aware of how you may have been affected emotionally and seek necessary support for yourself.

American Psychiatric Association. (2004). Practice Guidelines for the Assessment and Treatment of Patients with Suicidal Behaviors.

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