What to Do If a Loved One Tells You They’re Suicidal

Earlier this month was World Suicide Prevention Day. It is an awareness day observed every year in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. One theme that comes up every year is what to do if a loved one tells you they are struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Suicide is a very difficult subject to talk about, but it’s absolutely crucial that we learn how to talk about it in order to prevent it. 

Here are 4 steps to take if a loved one tells you they are thinking of committing suicide:

1. Celebrate Them for Opening Up - Let them know that you recognize how difficult it is to share their struggles with you and reassure them that you are proud that they decided to come out to ask for help

2. Assess the Severity of the Situation - Before you decide whether or not you need to reach out for help, find out if they are in danger of acting on suicidal feelings. Be sensitive but ask direct questions, such as:
  • Have you thought about harming yourself or have you harmed yourself before?
  • Have you thought about how or when you would do it?
  • Do you currently have access to weapons or things that could be used as weapons to harm or kill yourself?
If they have a plan and access to the weapons call the National Suicide Hotline to ask for help on your next steps (1-800-273-8255).

3. Encourage Them to Talk to a Professional - Reiterate that you are here to help them through their struggle but that they need to talk to a professional in order to get guidance. Calling a therapist can be a scary step, offer to help look at their insurance and even make the first call to a therapist if it feels like too big of a step for them.

4. Follow Up and Stay in Touch - Make sure you remain in contact with your loved one. Check-in with them to see how they are doing, offer to get together to talk or simply spend time together, and make sure they know that you are here for them throughout this whole process.

Most importantly, remember to stay connected, supportive, and engaged to make sure your loved one knows you’re not going anywhere.

Supporting someone struggling with suicidal thoughts is difficult and can add pressure to your life. If you need support as you navigate this process with your loved one or are struggling with suicidal thoughts yourself, you can email leemiller.therapist@gmail.com or call my office at (310) 614-0323.