How to Help a Suicidal Person
How to Help a Suicidal Person
by Kevin Caruso
If the suicidal person needs to be hopitalized (or is hospitalized),
please click on the following:
How to Help a Suicidal Person Who Needs Hospitalization
- Always take suicidal comments very seriously.
When a person says that he or she is thinking about suicide, you
must always take the comments seriously. Assuming that the person is only seeking
attention is a very serious, and potentially disastrous, error. Get
- Follow the information that is on the home page of Suicide.org. Feel free to view the home page of this site and to use it to help you.
Dealing with a person who is suicidal is not easy, so following what is on the home
page of Suicide.org can help you. And always remember that you need to call 911 or your local emergency number immediately for
anyone who is at a high risk for suicide. Do not hesitate.
- Try not to act shocked. The person is already highly distressed, and if
you are shocked by what is said, the person will become more distressed. Stay calm, and
talk with him or her in a matter-of-fact manner, but get help immediately. If the person
is at a high risk for suicide, call 911 immediately.
- Get help immediately. Call 911, 1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-273-TALK. This point cannot be overemphasized; a
person who is suicidal needs immediate professional help.
- Do not handle the situation by yourself. A suicidal person needs immediate
assistance from qualified mental health professionals. Again, call 911,
1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-273-TALK. And do not allow
untrained individuals to act as the only couselors to the individual.
While you are waiting for help to arrive (or if there is no emergency):
- Listen attentively to everything that the person has to say.
Let the person talk as much as he or she wants to. Listen closely
so that you can be as supportive as possible, and learn
as much as possible about what is causing the suicidal feelings.
- Comfort the person with words of encouragement. Use common sense to
offer words of support. Remember that intense emotional pain can be overwhelming,
so be as gentle and caring as possible. There is no script to use in situations
like these, because each person and each situation is different. Listen carefully,
and offer encouraging words when appropriate.
- Let the person know that you are deeply concerned. Tell the person
that you are concerned, and show them that you are concerned. A suicidal person
is highly vulnerable and needs to feel that concern.
- If the person is at a high risk of suicide, do not leave him or her alone.
Do not leave a critically suicidal person alone for even a second. Only after
you get professional help for the person can you consider leaving him or her.
- Talk openly about suicide.
Ask the person, "Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?"
If the answer is yes, ask, "Have you thought about how you would do it?"
If the answer is yes, ask, "Do you have what you need to do it?"
If the answer is yes, ask, "Have you thought about when you would do it?"
Here are those four important questions in abbreviated form:
- Have what you need?
You need to know as much as possible about what is going on in the person's mind.
The more planning that someone has put
into a suicide, the greater the risk. If the person has
a method and a time in mind, the risk is extremely high and you cannot hesitate
to call 911 and ensure that professional treatment is given.
- If the person talks about using a firearm that he or she owns for suicide,
call the police so they may remove the firearm(s). Firearms are used in the majority
of suicides, and those who use a firearm usually do not survive. It is thus an
emergency that needs to be handled by the police immediately.
- Don't be judgmental. Do not invalidate anything that the person says or feels.
The person is probably suffering from a chemical imbalance in the brain, and thus
could not possibly think clearly. Be supportive and caring, not judgmental, but get
- Be careful of the statements that you make. You do not want to make the person
feel any worse than he or she already does. Again, the person is probably suffering from a chemical
imbalance in the brain and is thus extremely sensitive.
- Listen, listen, listen. Be gentle, kind, and understanding. Again, allow the person to talk
as much as he or she wants. Always listen very attentively, and encourage him or her
to talk more. Be as gentle, kind, and understanding as possible.
- Let the person express emotion in the way that he or she wants. Allow the person
to cry, yell, swear and do what is necessary to release the emotion. However, do not allow the person
to become violent or harm himself or herself.
- Again, use the home page of Suicide.org to help the person.
Make a copy of it and give it to him or her. This will not only help the person now, but also
in the future when he or she needs help. You can also make copies of any of the pages of the
Suicide.org site that you think will help the person, and give them to him or her.
(There is no charge for distributing copies of pages of this site in print media,
not on the Internet, for noncommercial, nonprofit use.)
- After the person has received help and is no longer critically suicidal, help the person
make an appointment with a medical doctor and a therapist. If the person has not yet seen
a medical doctor or a therapist, help him or her make the appointments. Suicidal feelings need to
be dealt with on a professional level. Only trained professions should assume the care for the person.
This is very important.
Do not try to help the person by yourself. Make sure that the person is seen by a medical doctor
and a therapist.
Before you leave the person, make sure that he or she has received professional
help from qualified mental health professionals or that the risk of suicide has dissipated.
You cannot leave the person until the risk of suicide is gone or he or she is in treatment.
A person who is suicidal is at risk of suicide at any juncture. Ensure
that all appropriate actions are taken to help the person before you leave.
- When in doubt about what to do, call 911 immediately. Be safe.
A suicidal person needs professional help. Period. If you are not sure what to do,
it is certainly better to err on the side of caution and get professional
assistance immediately. Again, if you are not sure what to do, call 911.
- If someone tells you that you need to keep his or her suicidal intentions a secret, then
you never can keep that "secret." Under no circumstances can you keep a "secret" that could cause
someone's death. You are not violating a privileged communication; you are
taking the steps necessary to prevent a suicide. That is an expression of love,
caring, and deep concern, and is the only ethical choice in a situation as
serious as this.
- Follow up with the person on a regular basis to make sure that he or she is doing okay.
Suicidal feelings can come and go, so follow up to see how the person is. It is very important
to show continued support. If the person becomes suicidal again, take immediate action to help
him or her.
Thank you for helping.
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