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Suicide Prevention and Awareness

How Can I Help and What Can I Say?

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult, but if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

It’s important to take any suicidal thought or behavior seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide – it’s a cry for help!

Here are some tips:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions 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. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don't dare him or her to do it.
  • Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • 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.            

This content was developed by the American Association of Suicidology

Some Key Points to Convey in Your Conversation:

  • You’re not in it alone. I’m here for you.
  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
  •  I may not be able to understand exactly the way you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
  • When you want to give up, tell yourself to hold on just a little longer.