How will I know if someone is having suicidal thoughts?

People who are thinking about suicide often give clues that they are having suicidal thoughts. They might:

  • Stop doing activities that they usually enjoy
  • Start pulling away from people that they are close to
  • Give away treasured possessions
  • Start preparing for death, which might mean making a will and/or taking care of taxes or legal issues
  • Obtain the means to commit suicide (such as stockpiling pills or buying a gun)
  • Talk about death more than usual
  • Talk about suicide directly
  • Talk about suicide indirectly
    • Comments like “Things would be better if I wasn’t here,” “I just wish I could die,” “I just want to go to sleep and never wake up” can be indirect clues that someone is thinking about suicide.

What do I do to help?

One of the most important things you can do for someone who is suicidal is to listen.

  • Don’t judge.
  • Allow them to express their feelings freely.
  • Avoid comments that dismiss the suicidal person, like
    • ”Things can’t be that bad.”
    • ”You’re just talking about suicide.”
    • ”You wouldn’t really do that.”

Ask direct questions.

  • If you think that someone might be suicidal, don’t be afraid to ask directly!
  • Asking about suicidal thoughts will not make someone commit suicide!
    • Ask “Are you thinking about suicide?”

Believe them and take their suicidal thoughts seriously.

  • Ask whether they have a plan for how they would commit suicide.
    • If they say yes, ask if they have what they would need to commit suicide. For example, if they say that they are planning to overdose on pills, ask if they have the pills.
  • If they are planning to commit suicide and they have a plan and the means to carry out the plan, this is in emergency!
    • You should get help for this person as quickly as possible. You can call 911 or take them to the emergency room.
    • Try not to leave them alone.
    • You can also remove the means to commit suicide, but only if you can do it safely!

If they are not planning to commit suicide immediately, offer support.

  • Work with the person to figure out alternative ways to resolve the situation.
  • You can also offer practical help. This might mean giving them hotline numbers, finding support groups, or giving them rides to appointments.
  • Follow up!
    • It’s easy to respond to a crisis and then move on to other things. Think about calling or visiting to see how they’re doing and whether things are improving.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK. You can call this number even if you are not suicidal. The counselor will be able to work with you to help you help the person you’re concerned about.


Sections on this page have been adapted from: Rainn.Org



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