For mental health or life-threating emergency, call 911. If you are feeling suicidal (or if you are concerned about someone,) there is help available right now!
Know the Signs
Pain isn't always obvious, but most suicidal people show some signs that they are thinking about suicide. If you see even one warning sign, step in or speak up. Take the time to learn what to do now, so you're ready to be there for a friend or loved one when it matters most.
- Putting affairs in order
- Giving away possessions
- Sudden mood changes
- Reckless behavior
- Changes in sleep
- Feeling hopeless, desperate, trapped
- No sense of purpose
- Increased alcohol or drug abuse
- Talking about wanting to die or suicide
Critical signs include:
- Talking about death or suicide while intoxicated or high
- Seeking methods for self-harm or suicide
- Talking about death or suicide and acting anxious or agitated
- Person has a weapon or other lethal means
- Person is in the act of self-harm or suicide
- Threatening self-harm or suicide
If any of these signs are present, Call 9-1-1 or the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Find the Words
"Are you thinking of ending your life?" Few phrases are as difficult to say to a loved one. But when it comes to suicide prevention, none are more important. Here are some ways to get the conversation started:
1. Before starting a conversation with someone you are concerned about, be sure to have suicide crisis resources on hand.
Visit the Reach Out section of the Know the Signs website for a list of national and local resources.
2. "I've noticed that you've mentioned feeling hopeless a lot lately…"
Mention the signs that prompted you to ask about suicide. This makes it clear that you are not asking "out of the blue," and makes it more difficult for the person to deny that something is bothering them.
3. "Sometimes when people feel like that, they are thinking about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?"
Ask directly about suicide. Talking about suicide does NOT put the idea in someone's head and usually they are relieved. Asking directly and using the word "suicide" establishes that you and the person at risk are talking about the same thing and lets the person know that you are willing to talk about suicide.
4. "Are you thinking about ending your life?"
You may phrase the question in a different way. If they answer "yes" to your direct question about suicide stay calm, and don't leave the person alone until further help is obtained. Call 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Listen, express concern, reassure
1. "I can imagine how tough this must be for you. I understand when you say that you aren't sure if you want to live or die. But have you always wanted to die? Well, maybe there's a chance you won't feel this way forever. I can help"
Listen to the reasons the person has for both living and dying. Validate that they are considering both options and underscore that living is an option for them.
2. "I'm deeply concerned about you and I want you to know that help is available to get you through this."
Let the person know you care. Letting them know that you take their situation seriously, and you are genuinely concerned about them, will go a long way in your effort to support them.
Create a Safety Plan
1. "Do you have any weapons or prescription medications in the house?"
Ask the person if they have access to any lethal means (weapons, medications, etc) and help remove them from the vicinity. (Another friend, family member or law enforcement agent may be needed to assist with this.)
Do not put yourself in danger; if you are concerned about your own safety, call 911.
2. "Is there someone you can call if you think you may act on your thoughts of suicide?"
Create a safety plan together. Ask the person what will help keep them safe until they meet with a professional.
3. "Will you promise me that you will not drink or at least have someone monitor your drinking until we can get you help?"
Ask the person if they will refrain from using alcohol and other drugs or agree to have someone monitor their use.
4. "Please promise me that you will not harm yourself or act on any thoughts of suicide until you meet with a professional."
Get a verbal commitment that the person will not act upon thoughts of suicide until they have met with a professional.
1. "I understand if it feels awkward to go see a counselor. But there is a phone number we can call to talk to somebody. Maybe they can help?"
Provide the person with the resources you have come prepared with. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.
If you feel the situation is critical, take the person to a nearby Emergency Room or walk-in psychiatric crisis clinic or call 9-1-1.
What NOT to say
1. "You're not thinking about suicide, are you?" OR, "You're not thinking about doing something stupid, are you?"
Don't ask in a way that indicates you want "No" for an answer.
2. "Fine! If you want to be selfish and kill yourself then go right ahead! See if I care."
Don't tell the person to do it. You may want to shout in frustration or anger, but this is the most dangerous thing you can say.
3. Don't Say: "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. Your secret is safe with me."
Don't promise secrecy. The person may say that they don't want you to tell anyone that they are suicidal.
Say this instead: "I care about you too much to keep a secret like this. You need help and I am here to help you get it."
You may be concerned that they will be upset with you, but when someone's life is at risk, it is more important to ensure their safety.
You are not alone in helping someone in crisis. There are many resources available to assess, treat and intervene. Crisis lines, counselors, intervention programs and more are available to you, as well as to the person experiencing the emotional crisis. Click on the link below to see California Statewide and National Resources.
REACH OUT STATEWIDE AND NATIONAL RESOURCES
Spread the Word
Now you know the warning signs for suicide and how to have a direct conversation with someone who may be in crisis. But don't keep this important information to yourself. Help us educate others by sharing the Know the Signs website with friends, family and loved ones through facebook, twitter or email. Because together we have the power to make a difference, the power to save a life.