How to talk to someone who may be suicidal

While just talking can make a big difference, the best way to help your friend in crisis is to talk to a responsible adult about your concerns. This could be a teacher, guidance counselor or other member of the school staff.  It might also be your parents, a member of the clergy or someone who works at the local youth center. If the adult you have approached doesn’t take you seriously, talk to someone else. If you need help finding that “someone else”, call 800.273.TALK.

After consulting with a responsible adult, take the following steps to help a suicidal person:


Show You Care

Let your friend know that you really care. Ask about how they are feeling. Listen carefully and calmly with your full attention to what he or she has to say. Speak slowly and softly, while taking your time and showing patience and understanding. Never ignore or dismiss their pain or feelings. Begin the conversation: 

  • “I’m worried about you and about how you are feeling.” 
  • “You mean a lot to me and I want to help.” 
  • “I’m here if you need someone to talk to.”

Critical information for urgent situations


Ask the question: 
Are you thinking about suicide?

Talking with a friend about suicide will not put the idea into their head. Be direct in a caring, non-confrontational way. Ask the question:

  • “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  • “Are you feeling like you want to die?”
  • "Have you been thinking about suicide?"

Things a suicidal person might say


Offer Hope

Offer hope that there is a better future and its worth fighting for - that things will get better. Keep the conversation positive, while still being careful to be understanding. Reassure them that their life has purpose and meaning and they belong. Suggest:

  • “There are people in your life who would be really hurt if you weren't there.”
  • "You really matter to me and to others, like ____.” (name someone they care about) "You are not alone."
  • “It's hard to see it right now, but this will pass with time. Things will get better.”

Read stories about how some kids found ways to hope for the future


Help Them Get Help

If a friend tells you they are thinking of suicide, never keep it a secret, even if they ask you to. Even when you're not sure. Do not try to handle the situation on your own.  You can be the most help by taking your friend to someone with professional skills to provide the help that he or she needs. You can continue to help by offering support and staying with them. Reassuringly suggest:

  • "Let’s talk to someone who really knows how to help. Let’s call the crisis line now.”
  • “How about we go talk to _______ (name a person) right now. I know you like them and they have helped others.” (Be specific, if you can, about how they could help)
  • "I'd like to go with you. I want to be there for you.”

Find someone to help

Remember: even when you're not sure, never promise to keep information about suicide a secret.

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