Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

What Should You Do If Someone You Know Is Suicidal?

Fortunately there are abundant resources on the Internet to help guide a person who hears a loved one talk about suicide, or who is suicidal himself.

I found the following material at Mayo Clinic’s page on suicide. Visit their site by clicking here, or print this out so that you have it handy the next time you are confronted by a suicidal loved one.


Hearing someone talk about suicide may make you uncomfortable. You may not be sure how to step in and help or even if you should take that person seriously.

Not everyone who thinks or talks about suicide actually attempts it. But it’s not true that people who talk about suicide won’t really try it. That’s why it’s important to take them seriously, especially if they have depression or another mental disorder or are intoxicated or behaving impulsively.

Potential warning signs of suicide

You may notice possible indications that a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide. Here are some typical warning signs:

* Talking about suicide, including making such statements as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I was dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”


* Withdrawing from social contact and having an increased desire to be left alone

* Wide mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next

* Preoccupation with death and dying or violence

* Changes in routine, including eating or sleeping patterns

* Personality changes, such as becoming very outgoing after being shy

* Risky or self-destructive behavior, such as drug use or unsafe driving

* Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order

* Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again

Some people don’t reveal any suicidal feelings or actions. And many who consider or attempt suicide do so when you think they should be feeling better — during what may seem like a recovery from depression, for instance. That’s because they may finally be able to muster the emotional energy to take action on their feelings.


Questions to ask someone considering suicide

The best way to find out if someone is considering suicide is to directly ask. Asking them won’t give them the idea or push them into doing something self-destructive. To the contrary, your willingness to ask can decrease the risk of suicide by giving them an opportunity to talk about their feelings.

You may have to overcome your own discomfort to discuss the issue. Here are some questions you can ask someone you’re concerned about:

* Are you thinking about dying?

* Are you thinking about hurting yourself?

* Are you thinking about suicide?

* Have you thought about how you would do it?

* Do you know when you would do it?


* Do you have the means to do it?

Remember, it’s not your job to become a substitute for a mental health professional. But these basic questions can help you assess what sort of danger your friend or loved one might pose to themselves and then take appropriate action.

Don’t swear your discussions to secrecy. Not only is that an unwanted burden for you, but if you do make such a promise, you risk having to betray that trust if you need to enlist professional help. Don’t worry about losing a friendship when it’s a life that could be lost.

Do be supportive and empathetic, not judgmental. Listen to their concerns. Reassure them that help is available and that with appropriate treatment they can feel better. Don’t patronize them by simply saying that “everything will be OK,” that “things could be worse” or that they have “everything to live for.”


If possible, assess their home for potentially dangerous items. You may have to remove items that could become weapons of self-destruction, such as guns or knives. But don’t put yourself in harm’s way doing so, either.

Helping someone with thoughts of suicide find help

If your friend or loved one is at imminent risk of suicide, call the police or emergency personnel, or take them to a hospital emergency room if possible. Some people who are a danger to themselves may need to get help against their will, such as involuntary hospitalization. If possible, find out if they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs or if they may have taken an overdose.

If the danger isn’t imminent, offer to work together to find appropriate help, and then follow through on your promise. Someone who is suicidal or has severe depression may not have the energy or motivation to find help on their own. You may be able to make phone calls to set up medical appointments or go along with them, or help sort through health insurance policies for benefits information.


Many types of help and support are available. If your friend or loved one doesn’t want to consult a doctor or mental health professional, suggest finding help from a support group, faith community or other trusted contact.

You can help when someone considers suicide

There’s no way to predict for sure who will attempt suicide. And although you’re not responsible for preventing someone from taking their own life, your intervention may help them see that other options are available.

Direct questioning, supportive listening and gentle but persistent guidance can help you bring hope and appropriate treatment to someone who believes suicide will offer the only relief.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Razz2

    I have my own thoughts of the “long sleep” myself at different times in my life and it was always when I just felt so emotionally and mentally tired. Like I had nothing left to fight with and I didn’t want to “fight” any more. So I’ve been to that edge and understand how one gets there at times.

    I also have a very dear friend with some very serious mental health problems due to past trauma. In the past year she has told me that she had “set her date” to stop fighting as well. She told me after the dates had passed, which in a way was a great relief. However it still leaves me feeling like I’m in the “hot seat”… wanting to help her and at the same time knowing that there is not a lot I can do other than to let her know that she is CARED ABOUT AND IS IMPORTANT to me and others. We live 1000s of miles apart so we rarely see each other and contact ebbs and flows with what is going on in her life.

    My point I guess with this long ramble is that it doesn’t always help to know this information. Although I think the more we all know about suicide the better, looking at this list makes me feel worse not better. It just underscores to me my limitations in helping my friend.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment michael

    My brother committed suicide 12/26/2007. One thing he did on Christmas Day that I thought seemed weird was looking at all of our pictures. He walked around the house and looked at pictures in collagues on the wall as well as framed pictures on tables, bookshelves and hung on the wall. It is almost like he wanted to get a last look at things. I talked him and offered to get him help but he said he was fine. He hung himself the next afternoon.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Debra Rincon Lopez

    THERE IS alot of good INFO about everything you ever wanted to know on the MAYO CLINIC’s WEBSITE. SO CHeck it out often, DEB.

Previous Posts

Seven Ways to Get Over an Infatuation
“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild ...

posted 12:46:43pm Feb. 19, 2014 | read full post »

When Faith Turns Neurotic
When does reciting scripture become a symptom of neurosis? Or praying the rosary an unhealthy compulsion? Not until I had the Book of Psalms practically memorized as a young girl did I learn that words and acts of faith can morph into desperate ...

posted 10:37:13am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

How to Handle Negative People
One of my mom’s best pieces of advice: “Hang with the winners.” This holds true in support groups (stick with the people who have the most sobriety), in college (find the peeps with good study habits), and in your workplace (stay away from ...

posted 10:32:10am Jan. 14, 2014 | read full post »

8 Coping Strategies for the Holidays
For people prone to depression and anxiety – i.e. human beings – the holidays invite countless possibility to get sucked into negative and catastrophic thinking. You take the basic stressed-out individual and you increase her to-do list by a ...

posted 9:30:12am Nov. 21, 2013 | read full post »

Can I Say I’m a Son or Daughter of Christ and Suffer From Depression?
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, we read: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” What if we aren’t glad, we aren’t capable of rejoicing, and even prayer ...

posted 10:56:04am Oct. 29, 2013 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.