How to talk to someone about suicide
What do I say?
- Try to pick a time and place that will increase privacy. Having this conversation in a safe, private place, like in the car or at home, may be more comfortable than in a loud restaurant or public setting.
- Let them know you are worried about them and want to help. If there are specific behaviors or warning signs you have noticed, it’s good to mention them. For example, you can say, “I am worried about you because I have noticed you aren’t sleeping much. What can I do to help?”
- Ask if they are considering suicide. Phrase the question clearly: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
- If they don’t want to talk, keep the door open. Ask them if there is someone else they would be comfortable talking to, and let them know you’re available if they want to talk another time.
- Listen and stay calm if they say yes. Ask how you can help support them and offer connections to professional resources, like mental health treatment or helplines like 988. Ask if they want you to stay with them while they get connected.
- Validate their feelings. You can say something like, “I’m glad you feel comfortable talking to me about this. I’m sorry you are feeling this way and I am here for you.”
- Don’t promise to keep it a secret. If they are considering suicide, they need professional support. It’s not something you can keep a secret, and it is better for their safety in the long run.
It is also important to take care of yourself if you are helping someone through these tough conversations. Your mental health matters, too.