Here are some ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide or engaging in suicidal behaviors:

  • Be aware – learn the risk factors and warning signs for suicide and where to get help

  • Be direct – talk openly and matter–of–factly about suicide, what you have observed, and what your concerns are regarding his/her well–being

  • Be willing to listen – allow expression of feelings, accept the feelings, and be patient

  • Be non–judgmental – don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong or whether the person’s feelings are good or bad; don’t give a lecture on the value of life

  • Be available – show interest, understanding, and support

  • Don’t dare him/her to engage in suicidal behaviors

  • Don’t act shocked (If you are shocked, focus on the patient, rather than your alarm)

  • Don’t ask "why" (Asking "why" may invalidate the patient’s pain. Instead, ask "what is so bad that you are thinking about suicide?" or "what hurts so bad that suicide seems like an option?")

  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy

  • Offer hope that alternatives are available – but don’t offer reassurances that any one alternative will turn things around in the near future

  • Take action – remove lethal means of self–harm such as pills, ropes, firearms, and alcohol or other drugs

  • Get help from others with more experience and expertise

  • Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a mental health professional as soon as possible and ensure that an appointment is made