How You Can Help Prevent Suicide

By understanding the issues concerning mental health and suicide, we are one step closer to being able to prevent suicide. Preventing suicide also includes helping others in crisis, and changing the conversation around suicide.Β Learn some of the ways you can help prevent suicide below.

5 Steps to Help Someone Thinking of Suicide

These are 5 simple steps you can use to support someone who may be suicidal. This 5-step guide was created by the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, funded by SAMHSA and Vibrant Emotional Health as part of the #BeThe1To campaign.

Start by asking the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?“. This communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Be direct and unbiased.

You can also ask, “How do you hurt?” or How can I help?“.

Make sure that you are actively listening to them. It’s important to listen to their reasons for being in such emotional pain but also to listen for any potential reasons they want to continue to stay alive. Help them focus on their own reasons for living, instead of trying to impose your reasons for them to stay alive.
Warning: Never promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret. Keeping the person safe may require you to disclose that they are at risk for suicide to someone who can help.

This means being there to support the person at risk. It could mean being there physically or speaking with them on the phone. Make sure you follow through with the ways you commit to supporting that person.

If you cannot be physically present, help them develop ideas for others who might be able to help. These should also be individuals that are willing, able and appropriate to be there.

Research indicates that connectedness to others can be a protective factor against suicide. It helps by limiting their isolation and may act as a buffer against hopelessness and psychological pain.

Now, it’s time to establish immediate safety. You’ve determined that the person is experiencing suicidal ideation or crisis. This step calls for determining whether the person has developed a plan for dying by suicide, and showing support by putting time and distance between the person and their chosen method.

The more steps of a plan that are in place, the higher their severity of risk and their capability to enact their plan might be. Reducing an at-risk individual’s access to highly lethal means, or the chosen method, is a critical part of suicide prevention. Research studies show that limiting the accessibility or deadliness of lethal means can lead to a decline in suicide rates by those methods, and even a decline in suicide rates overall 1.

You can learn more about access to lethal means here (coming soon!).

Consider these questions:
  • Have they previously done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you?
  • Have they thought about how they would kill themselves?
  • Have they developed a specific, detailed plan? If so, what’s the timing for that plan? How accessible is their planned method?
  • Next, you’ll want to help someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports. This can include the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (988), but should also include connecting them with supports and resources in the community.

    This can include helping them complete a safety plan.

    Consider these questions:

    • Are they currently seeing a mental health professional?
      • Have they seen one in the past?
      • Is seeing a mental health professional an option for them?
    • Are there mental health resources in the community that can help?

    Last but not least, you should make sure to follow-up with them after the initial meeting to see how they’re doing. Try leaving a message, sending a text, or calling them. This gives you a chance to see if there is anything else you can do to help and also increase their feelings of connectedness. Supportive, ongoing contact with high risk individuals may be an important part of suicide prevention.

    Learn more about why follow-up matters here.