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How to Talk to Someone About Suicide

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call 911, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “MHFA” to 741-741 for 24/7 confidential counseling from the Crisis Text Line.

Anthony Bourdain. Kate Spade. Avicii. These are just a few names of people who died by suicide and remind us that suicide can be unexpected and difficult to predict.

And they’re not alone. A national survey found that on average, there are 129 suicides every day and for every suicide, 25 more people attempt suicide. Among 15- to 24-year-olds, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

That’s why it’s critical that everyone can recognize the signs and symptoms of suicide and are able to talk about it and ask people what they’re going through.

Use these tips from the Mental Health First Aid curriculum to talk to someone about suicide.

  1. Look for signs and symptoms. Some people considering suicide will exhibit multiple signs, while others won’t exhibit any. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of suicide and be on alert when talking to those around you.

  2. Ask them directly. If you suspect someone might be at risk of suicide, it’s important to directly ask about suicidal thoughts. Do not avoid using the word suicide. You can say things like, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  3. Listen nonjudgmentally. If you believe the person is not in a crisis that needs immediate attention, you can engage them in conversation to see how they are feeling and how long they have been feeling this way. Listen in a kind and respectful way so the person feels comfortable to talk openly without being judged.
  4. Let the person know you are concerned and willing to help. Offer the person kindness and attention and let them know you are willing to help them find the support they need. Offer the person resources for professional help, such as through a community leader, therapist, physician or family member. If you are concerned for the person’s immediate safety, call 911.

For more information on how to help someone who is suicidal, read this Mental Health First Aid Guide. You can also take a Mental Health First Aid course. The course will teach you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of suicide and depression. With the right information and resources, we can help those around us before it’s too late.