How do you prevent suicide?

If someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, don't assume the symptoms will go away with time. The sooner you recognize the risk and get professional help, the less chance there is that suicide will occur. Here are some tips to help prevent suicide:

  • Ask the person how he is feeling. It’s OK to ask if he has thought of suicide. Don't worry that you are planting an idea. If he has been thinking about killing himself, he will be relieved and grateful to talk about it with a caring person.
  • If he answers yes, ask him if he has a plan, and how and when he would do it. Find out if he has a means to commit suicide. If his answers make you feel he is in immediate danger for hurting himself, do not leave him alone. Remove anything he could use to hurt himself, such as guns or stockpiled pills. Get him immediate help. You may have to call 9-1-1.
  • Never promise not to tell anyone of his suicidal feelings or plans. Don’t worry about losing a friendship because saving a life is more important. Don't call his bluff, minimize the problem, or lecture him.
  • Let him know you take him seriously, and you know he really hurts inside. Let him know you care about him and will do your best to help. Tell him what he is feeling is treatable, and that his suicidal feelings are temporary.
  • Follow through. Help him find a doctor or a mental health professional. Be supportive. Be there when he makes that first phone call, or go with him to the first appointment. Do not assume he will make that first step on his own.
  • After he has received help, continue to support him. Help him stay involved in daily activities. Encourage him to take any prescribed medication. Encourage him to keep counseling appointments. Be available to him.

What should you do if your child or a teen you know seems to be a suicide risk?

  • Let him know that he can talk to you. Set aside a private place and time for this.
  • Listen to him. Let him talk without criticism or interruptions. Take him seriously, and don't make light of his problems.
  • Reassure him that there is help available, and that getting help is positive and not something to be embarrassed about.
  • Talk to your doctor, minister or rabbi, or a mental health professional about your concerns.

  • Call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is in suicidal danger.
  • Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) – National Hope Line Network.
    (Available 24 hours/7 days)
  • Call National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

To learn more:

Suicide Prevention
(National Institute of Mental Health)
Information for the public about symptoms and causes. There are several fact sheets. There is a guideline on how to help someone thinking of suicide and a list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions).

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Written by: Janice C. May, M.P.A.
Reviewed by: Jeffrey G. Schultze, M.D.
Last Modified: Friday October 14, 2016 10:00 PM