Two people talking. One person puts their head on the other's shoulder.

If you're worried someone you know is thinking about suicide, it may be difficult to know how to respond.

  • You may wonder, "How should I handle this situation?"

  • You may think that if someone is considering suicide, there is little anyone can do to change their mind about it.

  • You may be afraid that asking someone about suicide will put the idea in their mind.


Most people who consider, attempt, or die by suicide do not actually want to die; they just want the pain of living to end.

Having a caring conversation with the person at-risk can provide basic, life-saving assistance in their moment of need.

With the proper knowledge, training, the ability to actively listen, and — above all — the desire to really help someone, any one of us can bring someone back from the precipice of a final, fateful decision.

Talking about suicide will NOT increase the likelihood that someone will die by suicide. In fact, it's to the contrary.

Asking someone if they're thinking about suicide gives that person the opportunity to open up about how they've been feeling and to tell their story.

Recognizing Warning Signs

A person on a chair looking sad.

How would you know if someone you care about is thinking about suicide? Reflect on these questions.

  • Have they shown recent changes in behavior, appearance, or mood?

  • Do they make statements about being hopeless, or being a burden?

  • Do they talk about wanting to die?

  • Have they threatened suicide or made previous attempts?

People who think about or attempt suicide often feel:

  • they are a burden to others and better off dead

  • extremely disconnected from other people or even society in general

  • unafraid of death or pain which overrides their sense of self-preservation

According to Thomas Joiner's Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide, in order for someone to complete a suicide attempt, any of the criteria below must be present.


Which of the following are warning signs for suicide?

Asking The Question

A person looking ready to engage in conversation.

If you think someone may be considering suicide, don't be afraid to ask them directly.

Simply ask, "Are you thinking about suicide?"

Asking directly won't increase the likelihood that they will attempt it.

Instead, it will open up a conversation and help the other person feel connected.

If The Answer Is Yes

A person looking sad.

If the answer is "Yes, I've been thinking about suicide":

  • take any threat of suicide seriously

  • stay calm

  • listen actively and let the person talk about their feelings

  • connect them with a local suicide hotline

  • call 911 if suicide is imminent

Active listening gives the person at-risk an opportunity to share how they are truly feeling in a safe space. This allows them to reflect on why they might want to die, but also to see their own strengths and why living would be the better alternative to dying.

Your role is to help the person at risk gain back the perspective that they've lost, by helping them identify what they have to live for. This encouragement is often the next step towards recovery.

Take Action

Two people speaking in front of a window. Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

Knowing how to initiate a conversation about suicide can help break the stigma.

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