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PART 2

What to Do if Someone You Love Needs Help

For free and confidential help, call 988.
The first step to suicide intervention is recognizing warning signs. People who are struggling may not be very forthcoming about feeling suicidal.

However, there may still be signs that might help loved ones know when to approach them with support or intervention.

While these indicators may be serious and require intervention, they may not be an immediate emergency.
Keep A Lookout
If the person is directly threatening suicide, posting about it, or seeking access to different methods, call 988 immediately.

Major Warning Signs Someone May
Attempt Suicide Include:

Sharing feelings of hopelessness
Withdrawing from life and social responsibilities
Increased drug or alcohol use
Talking about being a burden
to others
Agitated, anxious, or restless behavior
Extreme mood swings
Talking about wanting to die
or self-harm
Fascination with death, suicide, and means of suicide
Threats of suicide should always be taken seriously.
If they are coming from an abusive partner—especially if you are trying to leave—take measures to secure your own safety first.
A suicidal abuser may also try to harm their partner before taking their own life. Get to safety and contact emergency services.
Signs can be subtle, or even misleading, so don’t blame yourself if they slip your notice and the situation comes to a crisis point.

Do your best to invest in your close relationships so you can more easily notice when something is off.

This is especially important if your loved one is experiencing mental illness.
No matter the circumstances, understand that missing signs does not mean you have failed them.

It is sometimes the case that a person who has been depressed or in crisis for a long time will suddenly become calm or upbeat if they have decided to attempt suicide.

This can happen because they feel they have found a simple resolution to their problems and that an end to their suffering is in sight.
This is why it is so important for loved ones to be aware of the person’s feelings and behavior patterns so they might recognize when a sudden positive change in mood may be cause for concern.

How to Intervene and
Provide Support

If you have noticed warning signs in your loved one but they have not spoken to you directly about feeling suicidal, the next step is to speak to them.
Starting a dialogue can feel awkward or invasive, but your willingness to talk may give the person permission to speak where they previously felt they could not.

1. Begin by Asking

Some questions to ask to start a conversation may include:
  • “Do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?”
  • “Do you have a plan to kill yourself or take your life?”
  • “Have you thought about when you would do it (today, tomorrow, next week)?”
  • “Have you thought about what method you would use?”
These questions can help you assess how serious the danger is and respond accordingly.

2. Keep Calm and Trust
Yourself

The knowledge that a loved one may be at risk of suicide can be overwhelming.
Whether they have directly confided in you about their struggles, or you have noticed concerning behavior from them, it can be difficult to know what to do next.

The first thing to know is that your intervention is already a big step toward keeping your loved one safe.

Your response may not be perfect, but your willingness to act on their behalf is already going a long way toward bringing them the support they need during this time.

3. Press Pause on Tough Love

There are a few things to avoid when intervening with someone who is feeling suicidal.
Minimizing
Even if you believe they are overreacting to their situation, never try to minimize their problems.
Mental illness does not respond to assurance that it “isn’t that bad” or insistence that suicide would be a selfish decision.
Shame
Regardless of your own opinions about the situation, your loved one needs to hear that you are not disappointed in them, that life can get better, and that you are willing to do whatever is needed to help them.

Trying to shame a suicidal person into changing their mind will only make things worse.

4. Remain Engaged

Once you have talked to your loved one about their suicidal thoughts, it is important not only to take action, but to stay engaged and continue the conversation no matter what.
Even a person who is willing to seek help may not have the motivation or ability to do so on their own, so your own continuous support is crucial.

5. Seek Professional Help

If the threat is not immediate, you can start by helping your loved one find a doctor or mental health professional to get them on a path to recovery.
You may need to go so far as to make the first phone call, or even to take them to their appointment.
Severely depressed people have a difficult time following through on these things, so it may be up to you to make sure the initial steps toward seeking help are executed.

6. Don’t Try to Do it Alone

If your loved one has told you about their plans to take their life:
Don’t keep secrets
Even if it was told to you in confidence, and even if they are upset with you for telling, their safety is far more important.
Reach out for help
If you are not in a direct position to help and monitor your loved one, contact someone who is.
What if they are a minor?
Contact parents and school counselors, as well as any other trusted adults in their life.
What if they are an adult?
Contact partners, roommates, close family members, or any others who may be in a position to help you keep track of the person and find them help.
Remove access to dangerous items
If you are responsible for the person, you can help ensure their safety by staying aware of their location and restricting access to any means of self-harm (pills, weapons, etc.)
Though suicidal ideation and planning may be ongoing and persistent, the crisis period during which someone is likely to actively attempt suicide is usually short.

The crisis period is the most important time to provide consistent support and reduce access to lethal means.

7. Recognize When It’s an Emergency

If at any point you suspect the situation has escalated to become an emergency, don’t hesitate to call 911.
You can also call the 988 Crisis & Suicide Prevention Lifeline for guidance on what to do in your specific situation.

Suicide may be prevented if loved ones are able to notice and quickly take action.

However, please remember, it is not your fault if your loved one dies by suicide.
No matter the outcome, your efforts are important, and your support at any point in time matters.