Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation

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What to do when you think someone might be suicidal

What to do when you think someone might be suicidal

While you may be able to identify and assist a loved one in crisis, you can’t possibly be expected to provide them with the unique counseling they may need. Instead, you can help by calmly, directly and sympathetically asking them about suicide and helping them connect with mental health services that are available in your community. And doing so might just save their life.

Look for the warning signs.

It’s not always easy to determine if someone you care about is at immediate risk of suicide, but they may show one or more of the following warning signs:

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Poor performance at work and/or school
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Sudden and extreme changes in eating habits /losing or gaining weight
  • Comorbid mental health disorders
  • Withdrawal from family and/or friends
  • A sudden increase in positive mood (after other indicators of suicidal thoughts or long-term depression)
  • Sudden change in physical appearance and/or personality
  • A feeling of disconnection from loved ones/a sense of overwhelming loneliness
  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself, even in a “joking” manner
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Sleeping too little or too much/extreme changes in sleeping patterns
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Excessive risk-taking
If you see these signs, let them know you care, keep them safe, and do whatever you can to connect them with mental health services. If you think they’re in immediate danger, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “4HOPE” to their Crisis Textline at 741741.

How to talk to them

Ask them “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Research shows that asking people if they’re thinking about suicide is essential to knowing their intent. Research also shows that once someone who’s struggling with suicidal thoughts is given the chance to have an open conversation about it, they may feel a sense of relief and take the opportunity to seek help.

Keep the conversation going

If they have answered “yes” it’s important to follow that statement up in a caring way and try to connect them with resources. If you think they’re in crisis or they express an immediate desire or plan to attempt suicide, don’t leave them alone. Do your best to connect them with proper mental health services immediately.

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