10 Things to Say to a Suicidal Person

Many people desperately want to know what to say – and what not to say – to someone who is thinking of suicide. The article 10 Things Not to Say to a Suicidal Person is SpeakingOfSuicide.com’s most popular post. Almost a half-million people have viewed it in the last 2½ years. Several hundred have left comments.

Sometimes people complain to me that the post describes what not to say, but it doesn’t say enough about what to say. They’re right. So in this post, I provide 10 things to say to a suicidal person.

First, Some Caveats

Before starting, I want to make some things clear: I came up with this list based on my conversations with suicidal individuals in my work as a clinical social worker, my readings of both clinical literature and accounts by individuals who experienced suicidal crises, and my own past experiences with suicidal thoughts. Nobody has actually researched systematically the most effective things for friends or family to say to a suicidal person, so opinion and experience are the best we’ve got for now. Results will vary according to different people’s needs and personalities.

I also want to make clear that this list of things to say is not intended to be a script. Instead, I illustrate ways that you can help a suicidal person continue to open up, rather than shutting the person down with a comment that minimizes, invalidates, or even denigrates the person’s experience.

And I want to add that what to say often isn’t nearly as important as how to listen. As I explain in my post “How Would You Listen to a Person on the Roof?”, someone who is thinking of suicide needs to feel understood. Let the person tell their story. Refrain from immediately trying to fix the situation or make the person feel better. These efforts, however well intended, can halt the conversation.

So, with all that said, here are 10 things you can say to someone who tells you that they are considering suicide.

1. “I’m so glad you told me that you’re thinking of suicide.”

When someone discloses suicidal thoughts, some parents, partners, friends and others react with anger (“Don’t be stupid!”), pain (“How could you think of hurting me like that?”), or disbelief (“You can’t be serious.”) Some “freak out.” A suicidal person might then feel a need to comfort the hurt person, provide a defense to the angry person, or retreat internally from the disbelieving person. The person might regret ever having shared in the first place that they were thinking of suicide.

By saying “I’m glad you told me” – or something similar – you convey that you welcome and encourage disclosure of suicidal thoughts, and that you can handle it.

2. “I’m sad you’re hurting like this.”

This simple expression of empathy can go a long way toward validating the person’s pain and soothing a sense of aloneness. There’s no “Oh it’s not so bad,” no “You don’t really mean that,” no “But you have so much going for you,” no other statement denying or minimizing the person’s pain.

3. “What’s going on that makes you want to die?”

This invitation to the suicidal person to tell their story can provide validation, engender a sense of connection, and show that you really want to understand. Ask the person to tell their story. And then, listen. Really listen. To deepen your understanding, follow up with more invitations to share, like “Tell me more.” Show empathy and understanding, too: “That sounds awful” or “I can see why that’s painful.”

4. “When do you think you’ll act on your suicidal thoughts?”

Even if you’re not a mental health professional, you still can ask some basic questions to help understand the person’s risk for suicide. Asking about timing will make the difference between whether you need to call someone immediately for help (for example, if the person says, “I have a gun in my backpack and I’m going to shoot myself during lunch”) or whether you can continue to have leisurely conversation with the person.

5. “What ways do you think of killing yourself?”

This is another risk-assessment question. The answer can help reveal the gravity of the situation. A person who has put a lot of time and thought into suicide methods might be in more danger than someone with a vague wish to be dead, for example.

Understanding the suicide methods that the person has considered also will help you in your efforts to keep the person safe. For example, if you’re a parent and your teenage child discloses suicidal thoughts, knowing that your teenager is considering overdosing on a painkiller alerts you to the need to lock up or throw away all potentially dangerous medications. (See this information from the Center for Youth for ways to make your home safer.)

6. “Do you have access to a gun?”

Even if you think the person doesn’t own a gun or can’t get a hold of one, this information is always important. If the answer is yes, ask the person to consider giving the gun (or a key piece of the gun) to someone, locking the gun up and giving someone the key, or doing something else to make the home gun-free until the danger of suicide goes down. For more information about firearm safety related to suicide risk, also see this gun safety fact sheet.

7. “Help is available.”

By telling the person about help that’s available, you can help them to not feel so alone, helpless, or hopeless. If you are in the U.S., you can give them the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.8255) or the Crisis Text Line (741-741). You also  can show them the SpeakingOfSuicide.com Resources page, which lists other resources in the U.S. and worldwide to receive help by phone, email, text, or online chat. If the person who reveals suicidal thoughts to you is your child, take them to a mental health professional or an emergency room for an evaluation.

8. “What can I do to help?”

Definitely tell the person about resources for help, but also make clear that you are available, too, if you’re able to do so. That said, there’s only so much you can do, so if you are feeling solely responsible for keeping the person alive, it’s best to involve others, too.

9. “I care about you, and I would be so sad if you died by suicide.”

Be careful here. In my earlier post, one of the 10 things not to say is, “Don’t you know I would be devastated if you killed yourself? How could you think of hurting me like that?” As I note in that post, “Your loved one already feels awful. Heaping guilt on top of that is not going to help them feel soothed, understood, or welcome to tell you more.”

At the same time, a simple statement of how much you care about or love the person can help nurture a sense of connection, if your statement isn’t an attempt to stop the person from talking further about suicide.

10. “I hope you’ll keep talking to me about your thoughts of suicide.”

Just as you want the person to feel welcome for having shared their suicidal thoughts to you, it’s good to make clear that you would welcome further disclosures, as well. Often, someone who has suicidal thoughts senses from others an expectation to “get over it already.” By inviting the person to come to you again about their suicidal thoughts, you can help prevent isolation and secrecy.

What Are Your Ideas about What to Say to a Suicidal Person?

There are many other helpful responses besides those listed here. If you have thoughts of suicide, what do you wish someone would say to you if you told them? If you have ever helped a suicidal friend or family member, what responses from you seemed to foster sharing, connection, and safety? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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Copyright 2017 by Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW. Written for SpeakingOfSuicide.com. All Rights Reserved. Photos purchased from Fotolia.com.

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  1. Caeden says:

    my partners suicidal. Rn she’s mentioned drowning and other things. If someone’s on pls help me. I’ll fill u in on more information. I’m unable to get to them in person for a while. I’m really concerned please help.

  2. Lidia Ochoa says:

    How can you help someone from suicide when you’re suicidal yourself?

  3. Christy says:

    Honestly I’d get so annoyed by most of these things it just sounds like something you’d read they don’t sound genuine it’d annoy the fuck outta me and I wouldn’t talk anymore

  4. Shikyna Duncan says:

    Tell them that it’s ok and don’t tell them u understand because u don’t (it will make them really mad).

  5. Kate says:

    This being suicide prevention day, my feeds are full up of posts declaring support ‘if you ever need to talk’ ..etc. But I find these posts only inflame me because no one directly reaches out to specifically talk. I feel like this day is for people who have no clue to feel like they’re doing their part and being proactive, making a difference. It’s a trigger for me, to be honest. I have a history of depression and all that good stuff. I’m also self aware and have an apt with my psychiatrist tomorrow. So I’m not looking for anything of the sort from this site. I simply want people to understand how isolating this can be. If you post something of the sort, why not also reach out to someone who suffers from depression, or has attempted in the past. Just a ‘hey how’s it going’ could be worth so much more than a generic post about how approachable you are.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Kate,

      These are excellent points. Folks can’t just rely on hurting people to tell us they’re hurting. People also need to ask. An image comes to mind of someone who’s choking and can’t talk as a result, and others ignore the person because there was no request for help. But the choking person couldn’t ask for help – they were choking!

      In the same vein, often people who are hurting emotionally feel too isolated, worthless, burdensome, or something else painful to be able to ask for help. It’s great if people are able to ask for help. It’s also great if people can ask others if they need help.

      Thank you for sharing here!

  6. Cindy says:

    I am grateful and afraid that I found this site today. Our 21 year old son has talked about wanting to die for many years. He was in 6th grade the first time he verbalized it after being bullied at school. I freaked out, cried and told him to never say those words again. He didn’t for a couple of years. The next time, and most times after, it starts again after a girl breaks up with him. His self-worth becomes so low that I’m not sure he’ll come back from it. But then he does and life is good for awhile. And then it isn’t.

    There have been times when we have blown it off as “he’s being dramatic,” but there have been a couple of times when a rush to the emergency room or police check up visit was in order. I’m certain I have said all the things NOT to say out of fear and in an attempt to help. I didn’t realize the shame and guilt my words were creating within him. Thank you for sharing the words to say.

    He’s in college and this past week I went and had dinner with him. We had fun eating, talking, laughing and walking the park together. This time was different though – I tried to listen and just be there for him. Although, I did try the “suicide is selfish” statement and regret it now. He started therapy last week and, hopefully, he will continue and get to the root of his pain. Usually, when he starts to feel better, he stops therapy and sometimes his antidepressants.

    He shared with me that he has decided how, but not when and where. This scares me more than ever now and I want to seek help, not only for him, but for me and my family members. We had to put our dog down this week and we were all there together – crying and supporting each other. He told me that after seeing the pain that caused all of us, it made him think twice about putting the family through his death (this is when I used the selfish card – ugh!).

    So many thoughts. So many fears. This is hard.

    • Shinola says:

      Dear Cindy,

      I am very sorry to hear that your son sounds like he is wired to feel pain on such a deep level. Please be empathetic to him. When my mother tried to kill herself at 16, she actually turned it all on me. She told me that because I wanted her to get help that I was “sadistic” and that I “only cared about her car.”

      I’m probably wired much the same as her, in some ways. I have the sensitivity…almost as if empathy had a very dark force…an empathy you feel so deeply that you can assimilate the pain of others as your own. I am 42 now and I am having a very rough go. As I said in a post below, I have had a “safety plan” for nearly 30 years. Please just keep encouraging your son to express himself to you. Even when his thoughts are beyond scary…people need that safe outlet and they do not need to be judged. Suicidal thoughts happen to people…just like breast cancer.

      Please make sure he continues treatment. I can say from experience, having finally got out of a 23 year career where admitting to mental anguish was a career killer. I wish I had started therapy and treatment a long, long time ago.

      I am grateful for your words tonight. I’m fighting myself.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

        Shinola,

        I’m glad you’re fighting. I hope you keep fighting. And I’m sorry you’ve had to fight for so long.

        I agree completely that suicidal thoughts happen to people in the same way that cancer or other illness happens to people. It is not the suicidal person’s fault. Reacting to a suicidal person with judgment or blame is not only unfair, but also dangerous.

        Thanks for sharing here. I hope that, soon, your anguish lessens and you experience healing in its place.

      • Cindy says:

        Thank you for your response and kind words. I definitely want to keep the door open with my son and will be more empathetic in the future. It saddens me to hear the story about your Mother and your many years of fighting. My hope for you is that you have found the right therapist, you continue to fight and find peace along the way.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Cindy,

      I’m grateful this post was helpful to you. It sounds like you have been doing a lot of self-examination about what’s been helpful – and not helpful – to say to your son.

      I hope you will be gentle with yourself. You’re deeply afraid that he will kill himself. You’ve said things to him that emanated from that understandable fear and from your love for him. You’re trying. Maybe being transparent with him about your efforts to respond better, and your remorse for ways you’ve responded in the past, would be helpful to him.

      As for the thought that suicide is selfish, many people certainly believe this. Suicide can feel selfish, because of people hurt in its wake. However, I have a different take on this, which I describe in my post: “Is It Selfish to Die in a Tornado?” Perhaps that post will be helpful to you, too.

      Thank you for sharing here. I assure you that you are not alone in your struggle and fears, which is both sad and a comfort to many.

      • Cindy says:

        The first thing I did after posting my comment was to text an apology to my son for my reactions and comments to his thoughts. He thanked me and hopefully he’ll continue to talk to me. Thank you for reminding me to be gentle with myself. I can be a little hard on myself when I’m learning something new. Next task is to read “Is it Selfish to Die in a Tornado”?

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

        Cindy,

        It sounds like you are doing great, hard, and loving work, both with your son and with yourself. Thanks for sharing your journey here! I appreciate knowing that this has been helpful to you.

  7. Shinola says:

    Even therapists recognize a lost cause when they see one. Haha.

  8. Linda Straubel says:

    Thank you, Dr. Freedenthal, for your kind words. They mean a lot coming from a compassionate professional such as yourself.

  9. Shinola says:

    Not all who wish to die are mentally ill or need to be talked down from a ledge. There is a missing dialog that needs to be considered. For those who know what “total information dominance” really means. For those who realize that every “privacy policy” is a statement against. For those who can’t opt out. For those with no right to be forgotten. For those who shudder at the unfolding of the technological dystopia. For those who see the social credit system unfolding in China. For those who know that all they work for is the chance to afford health care. For those who have assessed their future potential against their risk and pain threshold. For those who’s a therapists “favorite customer” because they pay in cash and don’t have to involve insurance companies. For those who know they fight as part of a resistance yet their effort is futile. For those who have reached an apex in their lives and would rather see their earnings go to a good cause, say a warm goodbye to their friends, fly to Switzerland (Dignitas won’t have me) to go peacefully. For those who don’t want code performed. For those who know how doctors would choose to end their own lives (hint: the vast majority don’t want their own industries services.) For those who have consumed enough. For those who feel like they are just another resource to be mined, spent and discarded. For those who see we subjectively value life on a sliding scale correlating to their “output.” For those who are simply matter…transferring energy from one form to the next. For those who may not be in pain, who may not be mentally ill. Who puts the genie back in the bottle? Where do folks really find God? Is it in a church? The worst thing about most people of a certain kind of dogma…is others of the same dogma. Is God in the data?

    Why is it I can’t even sign up for 23 and me to find out what might take me naturally in 5 years without having to opt in to some invasive data policy?

    Data is warfare and we are all foot soldiers playing a part. I have no family. No friends to speak of. My mind is toxic realities firmly planted in a world of toxic realities. The unfolding…well I would rather go to Japan for a month…say my goodbyes and meet a friendly death midwife willing to help me swallow a nice drink to make me go to sleep. I’ll donate a half a million dollars to charity and know that my life’s work didn’t go to the bank or to the doctor who helped crack and scramble my nest egg whist breaking my rib cage to perform proper CPR.

    I’m 40 something. I served my country. China has my most sensitive data because they stole it. Well, guess what? I lost this war. I lost it a long time ago.

    My safety plan has lasted three decades. Enoughs enough. I’m not mentally ill…just tired and ready to pass over. I’m not afraid of eternity and I wish my only option wasn’t a chaotic suicide, but a nuanced, well reasoned approach to what I feel is a long lived life. I’m just tired and not too thrilled about the false choice and social contracts I have to opt into to have any kind of success.

    It’s bullshit and there are no alternatives. Anyone who says otherwise is a fool.

    • Linda Straubel says:

      While you seem well educated and in touch with a lot of what’s wrong with our lives right now, including the horrific cost of health care and the theft of our privacy, there are positive aspects of life that you’re ignoring that still, for me, make the struggle worthwhile. I also agree that not all who want to end it are mentally ill, but you are so young to make such a final decision. Not everyone seeking therapy is labeling themselves as mentally ill, Some, like myself, are struggling with life-long issues that a therapist can truly help us to deal with better. There is too much certitude in your post, and especially the ending that anyone who disagrees is a fool is a huge tip-off that you’ve closed your mind to any more positive possibilities. I’m sorry you’re in so much pain and hope you find a way to give life another chance. I’m pushing 70 and have been where you are now, but I stuck it out and now I’m so glad I did. There is love in my life and new accomplishments that make me feel younger than I am. Good luck to you.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

        Linda,

        Thank you so much for sharing your experience. A site like this tends to disproportionately attract people who feel bad about life, so there’s not as much opportunity for people who feel better about life to offer a balancing perspective. I’m grateful you did!

        And I’m also grateful you came out on the other side. You are a living testament of possibility.

      • Shinola says:

        Thank you for your kind words.

        I’ve tried. I have been to therapy. My therapist has told me many times that I’m her favorite because I paid in cash.

        When I say that there are no alternatives, I’m talking about the technological dystopia that is our world. We are all feeding something that is yet to be understood. The implications of which…I wonder how many therapists understand or can relate to.

        I’m not trying to come off as argumentative but with respect to the way information warfare has infiltrated society on every level, there is no turning back.

        Some may say “enjoy the journey” and all the accompanying platitudes about life. I’ve been in the field of information assurance, artificial intelligence and and tech for decades. I’m not a tinfoil hat nutjob.

        I’m just stuck in a world of false choice. There is a very western viewpoint that seems to permeate the world of therapists, psychiatrists and medicine.

        I ask for psychoanalytic therapy and I can’t even find anyone in the field who practices. It’s too costly, too time consuming and…you guessed it…insurance won’t cover it.

        “Have you tried all 30+ antidepressants?” Yep. My favorite was MDMA.

        Actually, I’m teasing. What if I have the cognitive right to deny mood enhancers? I’m not a psychopath. I’m not even in pain. I’m tired. I’m bored. The future is frightening.

        I’ve practiced mindfulness. I guess I simply need to adapt cognitive dissonance so that I can do my job and not think about it? Or perhaps I can just start over in a new field?

        Where can I escape computers and information technology? Any ideas? (Or am I the fool?)

        Mars?

        Thank you doctor for replying to Linda

        Linda, I appreciate your comment.

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Shinola,

      I find your words very powerful and moving – one, because of the pain you’re obviously in, and two, because your comments are so well written. You have a gift for conveying the despair you’re experiencing. I hope you can find relief without dying. I hope your therapist recognizes that it’s not helpful to tell you that you’re her favorite client because you pay cash. I hope you find meaning in your life. Might it be in writing and, as a result, connecting with like-minded others who are also searching? (I mean searching for meaning, by the way, not searching for a “nuanced, well reasoned” death.)

      Have you checked out the website chronicsuicidesupport.com? Given how long you’ve struggled, you might relate to folks there. Their forum is at chronicsuicidesupport.com/forum/

      Thanks for sharing here. I hope you’ll share again.

    • Terra says:

      Shinola,

      Is there anything that could help you, in your mind? My partner is feeling this way now, and like Linda, I understand and agree, but still find something to live for (him & our life together). I’d love to talk more about it, even if I can just get more perspective on this. Respond here or email me if you would like to talk further. tform83@yahoo.com

    • jazz says:

      Thank you. Beautifully stated. Much luck.

  10. Linda Straubel says:

    Dr. Freedenthal, I’m not sure if you read every post on this site, so I’m repeating an idea I floated in reply to Concerned. Since intervention seems to be somewhat successful with addicts, couldn’t it work with people threatening suicide? Has it ever been tried?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Linda,

      That’s a good question. I don’t know of any research on interventions for suicidal people. The danger, I fear, would be that interventions tend to be about how the person’s behavior is affecting those doing the intervening. But what a suicidal person needs is to be heard and listened to, not confronted or judged. (I write about this in my post, “How Would You Listen to a Person on the Roof?”) If others have been privy to an intervention, whether as someone doing the intervening or as the subject of an intervention, and they have observations to share, I’d be very interested in hearing them.

  11. Loser says:

    This is what I really hate people expect for people who are suicidal to call a hotline. Their is no point the people you talk to are just doing their job and at the end of the day they go home and go on with their lives what is a suicide prevention hotline going to do to stop all those people who want to kill themselves?????

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      I see you feel hopeless that anyone at a hotline could help you. Hotlines do help many people. Many of the folks there are volunteers. For those paid to work there, why would that negate their skills and compassion? Physicians, nurses, teachers, and other helpers also are paid. There’s a reason many in the helping professions chose their job in the first place: They care, connect well with others, and want to help.

  12. Concerned says:

    What do u say when the person isn’t honest with you? I know my son is suicidal, and things are escalating. He tells his girlfriend things, but tells me he is ok and that he is not ready to seek help. But he is making attempts and leaving notes and we have no idea what to do. He is 100% afraid to go back to the hospital. Help!

    • Linda Straubel says:

      Dear Concerned – I am not the expert here, and I sincerely hope that you do get expert help with this frightening problem. However, it occurs to me that you might form an alliance with your son’s girlfriend, since she is the one he confides in. I’d allay her fear about breaking his confidence by stressing the seriousness of the situation and that, working together, you can help him more than working apart and keeping you in the dark. It also occurs to me that, although I’ve never seen it done or read about it, this might be another way to use the idea of an intervention, since, like addiction, suicidal ideation seems to thrive in isolation and denial. Perhaps other family members, his girlfriend and you, together with a professional, can get through to him. I’d like to hear what our resident expert has to say about this idea. Good luck to you; I know how terrifying this is.

  13. jane says:

    The 100% absolute wrong thing to say. You are piling guilt on the person and making them feel even worse. Many people feel suicidal for years, so it is not short term. This is everything NOT to say to a person.

  14. ren says:

    “No matter how dark the moment there can always be hope. The feelings you are experiencing are temporary. Committing suicide will cause your family and those who care about you extreme pain and self blame. It is a irreparable and permanent action to a feeling that is short term. “

  15. Just me says:

    I thought I might find the magic answer here. I guess a lot of people come here looking for the same thing. I think they are the only ones commenting

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      “Just me,”

      Sadly, there are many questions about suicide for which we have no definitive answers. I’m curious about what your question is…?

  16. Miiko says:

    My boyfriend keep telling me that he’s thinking about committing suicide I don’t know what to say to him I don’t know what to do for him thought of him committing suicide scares me I don’t want to lose him like that

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’m reading this for myself lol 🙂

  18. Anonymous says:

    Would hope they’d say given time we can find a way to get those fair weather friends to admit they are wrong to shut you out making life harder for you. Not understanding how much you’ve worked to correct errors in your ways.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I think #8 should be #1

  20. Duke says:

    If that person has been hospitalized or has trust issues all of these are a no go except 10, saying most of these will probably remind them of their hospital experience and if they got trust issues they are most likey not going to believe you. Dont ask them why or none of that that’ll just make them break down and be paranoid if you are going to spill the beans~~ Depression

  21. Linda Straubel says:

    One other thought just occurred to me: Rather than freaking out when a friend confides suicidal impulses, be grateful that they’re still willing to talk about it. Once I was determined to act on those feelings, I shut up about it out of the fear that someone would try to stop me. Talking could mean they’re still hoping to be talked out of it. This is why referring them to a professional is so important; a professional knows enough not to say the wrong things that could push them in the wrong direction. Another thing that helped me, ironically, was reading about suicide as it gave me some perspective and distance, as well as showing me that I was not alone.

  22. Sam says:

    Thank you, this helps a lot. My friend just texted me about wanting to commit suicide and I wanted to make sure I would say the right things.

  23. Aby says:

    Hi my friend from school told me he felt like hanging himself idk if he was being serious but I didn’t want to risk it I tried to tell him I was here for him and that he wasn’t alone I tried to get him to tell me wat his situation was but he told me he didn’t feel comfortable telling me wat was wrong but after talking to him for hours he ended up telling me he loved me more than a friend and so he wouldn’t do it after that he acted as if nothing happened idk whether to believe him though as u might be able to tell I care for this person and I want to be able to help him wat should I do to let him know it’s fine for him to talk to me about his problems and wat do I do if he doesn’t want to talk to me about his problems but he lets me know he’s thinking about suicide again

  24. I have a pen friend / text friend from the other side of the world. She has been through a lot, more than a lot of serious problems and she is seeking professional attention as well. But, she has her down moments.
    She used to confide in me. She told me a lot of her past issues herself but now she doesn’t want to. She feels suicidal all the time, but she says she doesn’t want to talk about it. I stay in touch with her, we talk everyday… But it’s generally about random things where I try to distract her and it seems working sometimes.
    But I’m very worried. She does selfharm.
    She used to tell me things but now she doesn’t and I can’t help but wonder if I said something wrong. I never read an article like the recommendations here, maybe I made her close up. Yesterday, I did tell her some good things… I told her that she has me no matter what. I told her that I understand if she doesn’t want to talk but I’ll still be there with her. She thinks she’s wasting my time because she’s gonna kill herself someday. And she hates it when anybody worries for her, she doesn’t want me to worry about her. How can I care but not worry? I am worried, how can I show I’m not?

    We talked a bit. I told her ” I understand if she doesn’t want to talk about it. But I also want to know why. If it’s a stupid reason like it’s wasting my time or I don’t deserve her shit or I don’t want to hurt you, then I’m gonna ask about it.
    But if it’s a good reason like thinking about it makes you feel worse, then I won’t ask. But even in that case, I want you to talk to me when you’re already feeling bad. Notice that since a long time I haven’t asked about anything except when you’re in a bad state. “.
    Did I say something wrong? What should I be doing? How can I support her? She’s a really amazing person and I’m ready to take any burden if I can. But she keeps saying that I can’t help her, nobody can. She doesn’t want me to help her.
    We are both 21 year old young-adults.
    I want to be more sensible around her and say the right things. The 10 points in this article are not a very good help in her case, I know she’ll react in a bad way for a lot of them. What can I do? What is the best course of action for me?

    • cristian says:

      Hey,
      I’m in the same situation. An internet friend of mine is considering suicide but he doesn’t want to talk about it much. We’re both 20. I care so much about him but he doesn’t seem to understand.

      What I’ve done is try to make it clear that I’m available if he needs to talk and that I will help him no matter what. Stuff like “I’m here if you need to talk” etc. I made it clear that I’m worried about his well-being and that I care about him, but I don’t know if he believed me.
      In those rare occasions where he does feel like talking about it, I try to understand him as much as possible (what made you feel this way, how can I help etc) while also supporting him. I’ve also started asking him how he is daily, in case something bad happened and he wants to talk about it.

      Unfortunately supporting a suicidal friend is much harder to do over the internet. It’s really up to your friend to decide whether he wants to talk about it or not, and if he doesn’t he can just ignore your texts and live on. I’ve considered contacting some of his real-life friends and telling them about it, but I don’t know how they’d react or if he’d ever be able to forgive me.

      The only advice I can give you, I guess, would be to try to make her understand that you care and that she needs support to make it through it. Tell her that she’s not alone, and that you wouldn’t ask if you thought it was a waste of time.

      • Hey. Thanks for your advice.
        In my case, I have let her know that I care and worry for her. She knows that. But that is a bit bad. She has a very low self-confidence and doesn’t like herself at all. And she doesn’t like it when someone is worrying for her, she thinks she doesn’t deserve that and she has hardcoded it in her mind, she just hates people who worry for her. That makes this all very hard.
        I’m trying to convince her that I won’t worry but I can’t stop caring for a friend. She thinks she’s pathetic so I’m trying to tell her that I like her however she is, her problems don’t change her and she can’t make me change my opinion about her. I think this would encourage her a bit to open up.
        But she hates to talk about the things that trouble her because it makes her think about them and she becomes really sad, even dangerous. So I’m just trying to say that I’m here anytime she feels like she wants to talk.

        She cannot tell any person in real life about her issues, but she opens up with me and I don’t want to lose that. She is seeking professional help for anxiety and panic attacks but she’s not ready to talk about her problems yet, even with professionals. And she’s so good at faking that they’ll never know.. So, I’m just trying to take small baby steps at a time with her. Yesterday I talked to her for hours and in the end showed her that she’s not numb, she did feel a lot of emotions at different points of the conversation. It was a nice conversation about random things, good things and bad things.
        I’ll just keep going on like this until I get more ideas and opportunities.

  25. Linda Straubel says:

    Stacey Freedenthal – Have you ever read Alvarez’s The Savage God? It’s written by a poet and is an odd combination of a personal memoir based on his own attempt and his relationship with Sylvia Plath, who finally succeeded; as well as some very interesting research on suicide statistics world-wide and how they’re influenced by romantic notions and religious belief. Reading about suicide was comforting, ironically, as I think it gave me some distance and perspective on my own feelings. It helped to lift me out of the emotional lock-box of isolation and unreasoning despair. I’ve no idea if others would respond the same way.

  26. brooklyn says:

    my friend is saying hes gonna kill himself today I am so grateful for this if I had something to say to someone like that I would say “I know it hurts but get through it it gets better I promise.” or “think of everyone who would be hurt of you died” thank you so much bye

    • Andi says:

      As someone who’s dealt with suicidal thoughts of my own, sorry to say, but neither of those statements are helpful… saying “it gets better” feels very diminishing of our struggle and saying “think of everyone who’d be hurt if you died” makes us feel like more of a burden and makes the feelings of suicide even bigger. I would not suggest saying either of these things to someone who is thinking of taking their life.

    • Linda Straubel says:

      Sadly, the first thoughts that come to mind are often the very things you should NOT say. Telling someone, “It gets better,” can make them feel even more hopeless as their subjective experience of the feelings flatly contradict that idea. Telling someone to think about the effect on the loved ones they leave behind also backfires. As suicidal ideation progresses, people get to the point where they’ve convinced themselves that everyone will actually be better off when they’re gone. It’s not logical; it just is. What’s more, you cannot “guilt” people into enduring further misery to keep from hurting others, even if they hadn’t convinced themselves that everyone else would also be better off. Since our first impulse is often to parrot unhelpful cultural cliches, we’re better off turning to the professionals who have more experience and more knowledge than is generally available floating around in our cultural soup of unhelpful responses.

  27. Linda Straubel says:

    From my own struggle with occasional depression, I know that it FEELS like I will feel like this forever. Having recovered from those times, I know that this is not true. I would share that information with a suicidal person; it might feel permanent, but it doesn’t have to be.

    • David Crichton says:

      However we are all different and for some of us when it has gone on every second of every day for many years and has stopped us working, broken our families put us in trouble with the police;; it feels like we have failed at getting better as well.
      We are all different

      • Linda Straubel says:

        David Crichton – You’re right, of course. We are all different in some ways, but one thing I do believe we share, and that is the need for help. Depression becomes a dark, self-contained, locked prison cell and if that situation persists, we need help from the outside. Please don’t think I was diminishing your experience; I suffered less and recovered more easily, and that’s due, in part, to luck. However, I did eventually start seeing a therapist and feel now that I’ll be OK. There is no shame in getting help; it just requires a little hope and trust that professionals know what they’re doing, have studied depression and have experience helping others. If you don’t feel that hope and trust, make it up; force yourself. Your life is well worth it and you don’t have to live it in pain. I was afraid, at first, that I would never find a therapist I could afford, but many of them charge according to your income. For me, getting that perspective from a professional saved my life. Good luck to you; I wish you only the best and am sorry for your pain.

  28. Elona Green says:

    Think about your family , and how they are going to feel.

    • S Wilson says:

      Read number 9, that kind of comment may only guilt them out of it, and is not positive reassurance.

      • Linda Straubel says:

        I agree, W. Wilson. You cannot guilt someone into staying on this planet if they’re too miserable to handle it. Guilt might work on a temporary basis, but, sooner or later, without any other help, the depressed person will inevitably convince themselves that everyone they leave behind will actually be better off without them.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

        I agree that is a concern. That’s why I followed the recommendation with so many caveats. Perahps it would be better if I modified it to say only “I love you and I care about you.” I do think an expression of love is helpful, but a provocation of guilt is not.

    • Kay Ll Huddleston says:

      and if you have no family?

  29. AnxiousandConcerned(Anonymous for now) says:

    Okay I understand this might be a tiny bit unrelated to this post but… when you’re desperate you gotta do something-

    Hello. I have a friend(age: 13) who is in a pretty dangerous situation. He has convinced himself that he is a waste of everything and is beginning to consider suicide as an answer. To be honest, he can exaggerate on some things, like his parents, siblings, but I quickly realized he’s not exaggerating on this. He thinks of himself as a bad person- of course he can be a jerk sometimes, but that’s not enough to consider him as “bad” or “terrible.” I tried to tell him that “death isn’t an answer” and then I freaked out a bit, ended up being some sort of preacher, which I think that was a pretty bad move. No matter what I say, or what anyone else says, he ends up ignoring it and tells himself: “They are lying, you don’t deserve to be here. No one cares.”
    I’ve had(let’s just say: “past experiences”) with these thoughts, but I eventually realized that death isn’t a way to fix things. But despite this, despite my background knowledge, I realize that I was pretty bad at being helpful, and if I don’t get advice from a professional, I’ll probably mess up again and something bad will happen.

    I’m almost hopeless. Extremely scared and worried.

    Note: He told me to not get anyone involved(well, Adults), but from what I learned, that is a disaster waiting to happen.

    I did tell an adult, but they didn’t understand at all, nor did they seem to care that much. Their response was: “It’s just a phase” and “Stop worrying, they’ll get over it” and “Don’t worry, it’s temporary”

    (It’s a bit difficult to help a person stubbornly sadistic to themselves, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit there and cry and do nothing. )

    And this has been going on for over 3 months(Okay, probably much longer but he told me 3 months ago), I shouldn’t let this continue.

    I don’t know if I helped them much, but one thing I constantly think about is what they said a few times before: “I would of been dead much earlier without you”

    I know this is a long “comment” if you could even call it that- I tend to ramble, get off topic, and freak out really easily.

    Since this person doesn’t have access to help from a professional on their own, what else can I do besides, ramble? (If I’m only able to text and email from and to professionals?)

    • Rachel says:

      Has there been any help offered to your friend? Any resources that anyone has presented to you? 13. that blows my mind, for a child, a young a adult, to think of themselves in that way. I know I’m just a stranger as well but I came here becuase friend of mine is going through the same. Email me if you want someone to talk to about this. riegelre@gmail.com My name is Rachel.

    • Ryan says:

      Well from my opinion it could be just a phase but I’m not sure. You need to ask him why he is feeling this way. Is it because he doen’t have a girlfriend,stress, or because of family problems. When he says “They are lying, you don’t deserve to be here. No one cares”. That is a sign. You need also after he talks to you if it seems serious, to talk to his parents about what he has said. If you are no longer friends because of it who cares you tried to help. If his parents disregard it and he tells you he has a plan on killing himself that night or the next night you need to call 911 and tell them what he said, he might be involuntarily comitted to the hospital which sucks but at least from there he can seek help through therapy and meds, its not as expensive as you think its like 50-100 dollars to see a Psy, or therapist and 20 bucks for meds. If it’s just a phase than tell him how much of a valuable person he is and what not. Take care, Ryan

    • Sarah says:

      In my experience as a high school teacher, I would immediately report his words to a school counselor or trusted teacher who DOES understand. I know it seems like adults can minimize the experiences of teens, but depression is a disease and it doesn’t matter if someone’s problems seem “small” or “insignificant,” someone suffering from depression cannot differentiate between reality and the depressive thoughts. I admire your courage reaching out for help and remember that your friend telling you this is his cry for help. Please continue to support your friend with your compassion, but you need an adults help. Some of them will turn out to be crappy and not helpful, but for both your sakes, please keep trying. Your lives and futures are so valuable.

    • Linda Straubel says:

      As has been commented below, adults sometimes have a tendency to minimize the feelings of teenagers or children as a “phase,” or, somehow, not as real as the feelings of adults. If I were you, I would talk to an adult and keep trying until you find one that doesn’t minimize these feelings. As has also been commented below, you might try a HS guidance counselor; any counselor with any real psychological knowledge knows better than to minimize those feelings. On a personal level, you might tell him that even though he firmly believes that no one cares, remind him that it’s not true; that you care and you care a great deal. Be careful not to turn it into a guilt trip, however. You might also tell him that his emotional depression is distorting his thinking and that he is not worthless. Also, I’d tell him that, even though his present depression feels permanent, it’s not. Finally, is there something happening in his family that is feeding into his sense of worthlessness? Abuse can do that. Above all, keep calm yourself; resist the impulse to panic so you can be calm and helpful. He’s talking to you for a reason; from my experience, he’s hoping you can lend him the emotional support he needs that he’s not getting somewhere else. Be his rocks; don’t freak out, but don’t worry about “rambling on and on.” You need to be heard, too.

  30. Gracie b says:

    My best friend just told me last night over a text that she is having death thoughts. It started when I opened up about my past, insecurities, and bullying. She helped me so much so I asked if she wanted to tell me about any of her insecurities. Out of nowhere she was saying things like “I feel so alone in this universe.” “I don’t feel wanted at all, I’ve never told anyone this but I considered dying and I still do” and “I wonder if I should just leave this universe and make everyone happy” I was completely shocked and heart broken by what she said I told her if she’s ever thinking like that again she needs to call me no matter what. And she told me she’s so happy that she finally has somebody to call. I love her so much and if anything happens to her I would be absolutely devastated. Also she casually brought up bullying too she said “being called weird freak doesn’t help my self esteem.” I am the only one that she told and I relly don’t want to mess this up. Plz respond

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Hi Gracie,

      You’re a good friend. You listened beautifully to your friend, you offered support, and you’re seeking out ways to better help her. Knowing someone has thoughts of suicide can be a big burden to carry alone. Do you have someone else you can confide in? I don’t know your age, but if you’re a teenager, I recommend telling an adult.

      On this website, I have posted a few posts about how to help a suicidal friend. You landed on one of them. Here are others:

      If You Suspect a Friend or Loved One is Thinking of Suicide

      How Would You Listen to a Person on the Roof?

      10 Things Not to Say to a Suicidal Person

      “Better Mad than Dead”: Keeping a Friend’s Suicidal Thoughts Secret

      It can be helpful to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 or to text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 if you need more advice. I hope you’ll do so, if needed!

      • Linda Straubel says:

        Stacey – I’m so glad you’re contributing to this site. You seem to have professional knowledge about the subject of suicide. Is your Ph.D. in psychology? In any event, thank you for your contributions and keep posting! You’re advice is invaluable.

      • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

        Thank you, Linda. My Ph.D. is in social work, and I am a clinical suicidologist — that is, my research and practice focus on issues related to suicide.

        I appreciate your feedback!

  31. Roxana says:

    My boyfriend told me over the phone that he was going to sleep and as I was saying goodnight he abruptly said lately the thought of dying has been more present in his mind, I tried to ask why and he just said that everything was going wrong and he was tired of his life, it is not the first time he has said it, we’ve talked about it before, so I asked if maybe he had considered reaching out for professional help because help is available and he said he didn’t want to get help.. So I suggested if he wanted to maybe work out because it can help with his daily stress and he said he doesn’t feel like it, I panicked and I tried so hard not to cry but I told him I was worried because I care about him.. I told him that I love him and he said “it’s not the time”. And I am just so scared to deal with this, I truly don’t know what to do or say, I know that trying to make him think about good things that he enjoys doesn’t help and he’s completely depressed and I am too dealing with my depression and suicidal thoughts and it is such a trigger, it only makes me think that I couldn’t live without him. And I so want to help him and I know I’m the only one he opens up about this stuff, I need to help him, please any advice, anything at all is helpful, I have tried everything

    • Susanne says:

      Hello Roxana! I’m so sorry to hear about the situation you’re in, I see how big your pain is. I believe it’s one of the most painful and suffocating feeling that exists on earth. Almost 2 years ago I was going through similar scenario, my boyfriend and I were suicidal. He was cutting me off and I was desperately trying to save him, as I couldn’t imagine my life without him.
      You are right to feel what you are feeling, anybody in this situation would feel like that. I also felt that I’ve tried everything and nothing worked. What I’ve discovered few years later is that we are put in such a situation to become aware of the part of OURSELVES who really wants to die and take care of it. When you are in such situation it’s important to have something real that you know you CAN do. And this is helping yourself. What I mean by that is expressing your emotions, finding support in other people (can be proffesionals) and giving yourself the love that you give to your boyfriend.

      Ask yourself, what he does that provokes helplessness in you? How are you doing it yourself? How you wish he’d react? Are you reacting like this? If not, how can you start?
      i.e. Let’s say he is not willing to reach out for help. You said you’re also suicidal. Are YOU reaching out for help?
      You can do it with as many examples as you wish. The more you take care of yourself the more HE will be able to do this.

      The best that you can do practically for your boyfriend is to learn how to be unconditionally present. Present with him, his emotions and his thoughts without trying to change it. If someone is suicidal it means he feels he’s totally alone in his pain. Sometimes, when we desperately want to help somebody, subconsciously we are sending them message that they are not okay as they are now and they need to change. It provokes shame. Imagine his suicidal thoughts and actions are a little child to needs to be taken care of. You cannot treat it as an enemy. Be with it unconditionally and try to understand it how much you can. Send it the message that you will love it no matter what it does! There are a lot of videos on youtube on how to be truly present with people.

      I hope it helps. If you wish to talk more or ask about something feel free. I send you lots of love.

    • Ryan says:

      Roxana I liked what Susanne said but I’ll give you the shorter version. If you do or don’t live together depending on if he likes to be touched and if not then he maybe likes to touch you instead, sit on the couch together and maybe watch a tv show or movie and either rub his back or let him rub your back or rub his feet or let him rub your feet. Just ask him to be physically close to you as he can, don’t force it that would be annyoing for him, if he doesn’t feel like it than you can try another time but don’t put a guilt trip on him. Your physical love and cleaning up after yourself and maybe helping him out with chores will be a great burden lifter.

      Being physically close is even better than being mentally close even though both are needed. Also its true that a way to enter a mans heart is through his stomach so ask him if you can pick up some fast food. Take care Love, Ryan

  32. Sadie_B says:

    The pain doesn’t last forever. This part of your life is small compared to all the things you can do. Don’t end it all for this. It will get better.

  33. Kylie H. says:

    My friend has already attempted, her parents know but I don’t trust her. I remember the phone call when she told me and she was telling me how broken and sad she was, that she just wanted to die. I have my own problems and that’s why she said she wouldn’t tell me. Towards the end of the phone call she got mad because she thought that I was going to tell the school counselor. She asked me if I would and I told her that I wouldn’t give her a yes or no because I don’t trust that she won’t do it again. Her parents have known for a long time and they haven’t done anything, I’m worried about her and she doesn’t want to talk to me, I don’t know what to do.

  34. Kylie says:

    My friend has already attempted, her parents know but I don’t trust her. I remember the phone call when she told me and she was telling me how broken and sad she was, that she just wanted to die. I have my own problems and that’s why she said she wouldn’t tell me. Towards the end of the phone call she got mad because she thought that I was going to tell the school counselor. She asked me if I would and I told her that I wouldn’t give her a yes or no because I don’t trust that she won’t do it again. Her parents have known for a long time and they haven’t done anything, I’m worried about her and she doesn’t want to talk to me, I don’t know what to do.

  35. Cheyenne says:

    I am in 6th grade, and I moved from NY to NM last year. Along with leaving my state I also left one of my best ever friends behind. Just today she first texted me saying that i couldn’t tell ANYBODY AT ALL about what she was gonna say, and I agreed. After she said she was considering suicide. I am on a break, and visited NY, and we set up a meeting in two days. We are going to be supervised by our mothers, and I want to talk to her, but don’t know if I can, or what to say. Any suggestions?

    • Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW says:

      Cheyenne,

      I’m sorry you’re in this situation, where you’re worrying about your close friend and not knowing how to help her, especially with her expectation of secrecy. I hope you will read my post, “Better Mad Than Dead”: Keeping a Friend’s Suicidal Thoughts Secret. I address there the very situation in which you find yourself now.

      That said, my quick advice here is to listen to her (even though you’ll be supervised by your mothers, it’s likely that you’ll have times where they’re talking with each other and you and your friend can talk without intrusion), offer empathy and support, and then, if she is indeed having thoughts of killing herself, tell your mom or hers. Yes, she might be mad, but as the title above states, better mad than dead.

      I hope it works out well for all of you!

    • Anonymous says:

      If you truly care about your friend you need to tell an adult you trust about what your friend has said to you. Your friend could hurt her or him self make sure to take your friend seriously i wish you both the best.

    • Linda Straubel says:

      Trust Stacey’s advice; she’s the professional here. One thing I could add is that not all lies are bad. For example, if you tell your friend you won’t tell anyone to get her to open up to you, knowing full well that you will later tell someone, and the help saves her life, then that was a most excellent lie. Lie without guilt and lie like the best actress who ever lived. Don’t get hung up on the cultural cliche that you must always tell the truth. That’s a rule too simple-minded to live by, literally. One of my basic rules about this is that if the lie benefits only me, it’s probably not a good one. On the other hand, if it benefits a dear friend and gets her the help she needs, it’s a good one. Good luck with this; I know how terrifying it can be. Keep your courage up and be strong on her behalf and on your own, as well.

  36. Calvin Moore says:

    I have been brought up in the church and have given so much of myself in the service of Him. I have been far from perfect, but felt I have been abandoned. I wish I could not believe in anything or anyone who would care whether I lived or died. I have seen evidence of the existence of God, however, I do not see Him as benevolent and kind. The human perceptions of God may not be anywhere near what He is really. I find myself praying for myself and others I care about and find myself stopping mind prayer. I stop because I know He does not care. I have been abandoned and because what I might ask is nothing compared to what pain others might be suffering. What I am dealing with is nothing and it is up to me to figure this out myself. I am angry, I am sad, and wish I was an atheist. I would be far better served if I were.

  37. Alex says:

    I always find your articles informative and helpful.
    Working in EMS I find myself often talking with people who are depressed and suicidal. I’ve told some of my colleagues about your site. Keep up the good work.

  38. Phelix says:

    Great advice! Though, I’d disagree with taking your child to an ER or therapist unless there’s an imminent threat… or you’ve asked your child and they want to go.

    Taking them to someone else can scare them, give the impression that you want to hand over responsibility to someone else, and make them less likely to share these thoughts in the future.

  39. Really good questions. I’m so glad you brought this up. Very helpful to clients and therapists!

  40. AJ QUINN says:

    i want to help but.. what is help really we can’t help whats gone. i’m scared i won’t last either and my friend needs me but i can’t help for i can’t win or fight i’m so tired

  41. John says:

    So all comments have to be PC, and not promote a religion, so basically 80% of why people are having difficulty in this world, will be categorized as political fodder, are you even serious about this? I’m not here to tell people how to be something, other than be themselves.

  42. Justice says:

    I have a friend who has a “wall” and she won’t tell me anything anymore. The last thing she told me about was that she was thinking about cutting. And then her and another friend of mine got in a huge fight. It’s been 7 months and I’m still worried about her. I have no idea what to do. How do I get her to start talking to me again?

    • Phelix says:

      I remember that wall. I had forgotten about it. I kept seeing it in my teens or twenties. It could still be there, but I don’t see it anymore.

  43. Rob says:

    First, you would have to ask what kind of suicidal person are you talking to? Is it someone who wants to leave this life because of things having to do with social status, problems with school, not getting along with parents, or professional failure?
    Or is the suicidal person someone who is suffering a chronic disease, pain, fatigue, loss of control over bodily functions, etc.? The former are things that can be addressed via “therapy.” The latter are often things that are chronic by nature and show little sign of remedy. Two very different animals.

    I swear I do feel a twinge of alienation when I read suicide prevention sites and articles. All the suggestions, advice, concern etc., are almost always aimed at the former! The rest of us are like oddballs, freaks, often older. The admonitions to hold on as well as assertions such as “it get’s better” or “suicide is a temporary solution to a permanent problem” add to the farce-like atmosphere, where we feel like all this good intentioned stuff just isn’t for us.

  44. Karen Smith says:

    Would this be appropriate?
    “How can I help you to feel better?”

  45. A few others that work: “I love you.” “You’re not alone in this.” “I’ll always be there for you.” “You are loved.” “How can I help.”

    • Phelix says:

      Those are really nice sentiments. I think most people would find them helpful. Though, personally, when I hear words like “always” or “never,” my skepticism kicks in.

      Two of the nicest things friends have said to me when I was inconsolable were 1) “I wish you’d be nicer to my friend Phelix,” meaning she loved me and wanted me to be nicer to myself; 2) “Hon, we’re getting you a bicycle.”

      Reframes maybe effective only for me, but I think they worked for me because each placed me slightly outside the frame and sounded somewhat practical. Also, one was a wish, and the other a commitment. Neither was a task unequivocally put on my plate, and both were thoughtful.

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