mental health

What to Say to Someone Who is Suicidal

Mental health concerns, including depression, can lead to an increased risk of suicide. If someone in your life has been struggling with their mental health, or with any other factors in their life that have them contemplating hurting themselves, you can be prepared to help them. Knowing what to say to someone who is suicidal can be crucial in such a situation.

If the Risk is Imminent

The first thing to know is if your friend or loved one is on the verge of hurting themselves or committing suicide, call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Do not leave them alone and remove anything they could use to harm themselves, such as weapons or drugs.

Understanding Mental Health

October has been designated as National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month. Sunday, October 10, is World Mental Health Day. Understanding more about mental health issues can help you help your friend or loved one more effectively.

When someone is suffering from depression, they have an increased risk of a suicidal thought or attempt. About 60% of those individuals who do commit suicide have a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder or major depression. Younger people often also have a substance abuse disorder.

Know the Warning Signs

Even if your friend or loved one does not state that they are thinking of suicide, you may notice warning signs. They may be:

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun

What to Say

When someone is suicidal, you will need to be direct but cautious. Avoid being judgmental or trying to guilt-trip them into changing their mind. Statements like “you’re not going to do something stupid, are you?” or “think of how you will make others feel” will not help and will probably make the situation worse.

Ask the person directly about their thoughts, feelings, and plans. Many people avoid the topic because they think it will put ideas into the person’s head or make them think about suicide even more. However, research shows that this will not happen, and, in fact, the person will be more grateful that you’ve shown them that you care. Questions and statements that show you are genuinely concerned include:

  • “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  • “Does it ever get so tough that you think about ending your life?”
  • “I really care about you, and I want you to know you can tell me anything.”

Stay Calm and Listen

If someone close to you appears to be suicidal, do not panic. Stay calm and listen to what they have to tell you about their feelings and their situation. You can ask some additional questions to get them to open up to you, including:

  • “How often are you having these thoughts?”
  • “When it gets really bad, what do you do?”
  • “What scares you about these thoughts?”
  • “What do you need to do to feel safe?”

Reassure them that they can get help for what they are feeling, whether it is depression, anxiety, or some other mental health issue. You can offer to help them find a mental health professional or other resources they may need. Let them know you have their best interest in mind and want them to find the right treatment for their mental health. Stay with them as they seek the help they need to overcome their suicidal thoughts and manage their mental illness in a healthier way.


When someone you love is struggling with a mental health issue and is talking about suicide, holding an intervention can be the best way to help them understand why and how to seek help. An early intervention can prevent many issues in their life, as they are encouraged to get treatment before it’s too late. If your loved one is struggling with mental illness or an addiction to drugs or alcohol, please contact Whitman Recovery Service. With more than 30 years of experience, our team can help you stage an intervention with a positive outcome; we have a 98 percent success rate. We are available at (210) 291-0278.