Helping a Suicidal Person

If someone tells you that he or she is contemplating suicide or shows signs of being suicidal, don’t be afraid
to talk about it. Your willingness to discuss suicide shows the person that you care and are willing to be a
friend. Ask questions about how the person feels. “You seem really down. Is there a reason?” Ask questions about suicide itself. “Do you know how you’d do it?” Determine whether the person has the means to carry out a plan, such as access to a gun or pills. The more specific the plan, the higher the risk. Discuss suicide as you would any other topic of concern. Don’t offer advice such as, “Think how much better off you are than most people. You should appreciate how lucky you are.” Comments like this only increase feelings of guilt and make the suicidal person feel worse. Instead, convey hope. With time, things probably will get better. Recognize, however, what you can’t do. You can’t bring back a lover, for example, or talk someone out of depression. Whenever possible, get help. Suggest that the person call our 24-hour crisis line or talk with a teacher, counselor, minister, rabbi, coach, or other trusted adult. If the person refuses, call yourself and ask for guidance.

Many suicidal people have given up hope, believing that they can’t be helped. With time, though, most suicidal
people find reasons to live. It’s up to others to see that they get the help they need. Don’t be afraid to
be disloyal. Suicidal feelings often are transitory, while suicide is permanent. What may seem like an act of
betrayal or the breaking of a promise can be the favor of a lifetime.