Things to say or do when a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts

As a friend or family member, you can take steps to help and support someone experiencing suicidal thoughts. If you sense something is wrong, seek help and follow the steps listed below:
  1. Listen to your loved one. Not everyone who has suicidal thoughts is experiencing a life and death emergency situation. However, anyone distressed enough to be self-destructive at any level should be listened to and helped.
  2. Again, listen and reassure your loved one that depression and suicidal thoughts can be treated. Avoid lecturing or pointing out all the reasons a person has to live.
  3. Avoid reverse psychology. Don’t shock or challenge your loved one by saying, “Go ahead and do it.”
  4. Avoid analyzing your loved one’s motives by saying, “You just feel bad because …”
  5. Limit access to non-essential medications, locking in a lock box or discarding excess quantities of over-the-counter, old prescriptions or pet medications.
  6. Let your loved one know that they can count on you, but don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Let them know you care about what they’re going through.
  7. Be realistic in your statement of support. Don’t offer false reassurances such as, “I’m sure you and your boy/girlfriend will get back together” or “I’m sure your parents will want you home again.”
  8. Acknowledge your loved one and, again, listen to them. Don’t act like they’re hurting you with their suicidal statements. They’re not purposely trying to; they are just hurting.
  9. Take their suicidal thoughts and threats seriously and assist them in getting help when needed.
  10. Remove guns from the home. Ask a friend, family member or gun shop to store them during the period of crisis. Avoid false security by thinking that your loved one doesn’t have access to the gun safe.
  11. Ensure your loved one maintains a relationship with their counselor.
  12. Participate in family therapy to address unresolved issues.
  13. Ensure your loved one takes their medications as prescribed. Monitor medication intake if you have a concern about overdosing. Secure other medications in the household if there has been any history of overdose or thoughts about overdosing on pills.
  14. Remember, recovery takes time. Asking for help is only the beginning of the process. Healing will take time.
  15. Contact the Care Crisis Response Service’s 24-hour crisis line at 800-584-3578 if you have any questions or concerns about how your loved one is coping after experiencing suicidal feelings.

There are several resources available if you need extra support or if you or someone you know is in crisis:

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Recognizing the warning signs of suicide
Recognizing the warning signs of suicide

Friends and family may be the first to see the warning signs of suicide. Learn more about when to seek help.