How to Help the Suicidal Person
There is no scarier place to be in the world than in the head of someone who is suicidal. And thinking about how to help a suicidal person is likely something people don't do until they're sitting next to someone who is thinking about ending his or her life.
But there are things you can do to help someone who is suicidal. They don't have to be left alone in that scary place and neither do you.
The First Thing To Do When Someone is Suicidal
The first thing you need to do if you know someone is suicidal is to assess the situation. If there is any immediate danger to the suicidal person or anyone else call 9-1-1 immediately or take the person to a hospital emergency room.
The suicidal person might initially be angry with you for involving emergency responders but remember, it's much better that they be mad at you then they not be there at all.
What Else To Do If Someone is Suicidal
There are many things you can do if someone is suicidal. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline lists these dos and don'ts when helping a suicidal person:
- Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expression of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Be available. Show interest and support. Tell the person he or she is not alone. Tell the person you can about him or her.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
- Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
- Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
- Encourage him or her strongly to call the Lifeline. Lifeline operators help suicidal people feel better every day. (1-800-273-8255)
- Dare the person to do it.
- Act shocked. This puts distance between the two of you.
- Be sworn to secrecy. Always seek help and support.
Where to Get Help for Suicidal People
You cannot deal with a suicidal person alone – you must reach out and find help and support, both for you and for the person who is suicidal.
You can learn where to get help for a suicidal person by calling Lifeline. Lifeline calls are routed to local areas and the operators can tell you about nearby resources like crisis or treatment centers.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (available 24/7): 1-800-273-TALK (8255) http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Other numbers that may be able to help a person considering suicide include:
- The Trevor Project line (for LGBTQ youth): 1-866-488-7386 http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
- United States Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1) http://www.veteranscrisisline.net/
Additionally, you can do an online search for mental health services thought the American Mental Health Services Locator. http://store.samhsa.gov/mhlocator
If you're not in the United States, go to Befrienders Worldwide for international information. http://www.befrienders.org/
Remember This When Helping a Suicidal Person
Always remember that while suicide really may seem like the best option to a person in a crisis, there are many other options out there to help the suicidal person choose life. There is always another way.
Last Updated: 13 September 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD