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  • Writer's pictureKevin Kenealy

Five Actionable Steps to Assist Someone Who May Be Suicidal

The loss of life is always a painful experience and suicide is not an exception. Here we give you 5 action steps that will give you an idea and put you from the right perspective when trying to reach out to people who may be suicidal, and these are supported by evidence in the field of suicide prevention.


How- keeping an open line of communication, asking “Are you thinking about suicide” shows that you are open-minded and not going to judge them and are super supportive. Asking in this straightforward, unbiased approach can open the door to effective communication regarding their emotional discomfort, and it can also allow everyone to be the one to ask what the next steps should be. “How are you hurting?” and “How can I help?” are more questions you can ask. Never guarantee that you would keep their suicidal ideas hidden.

Be There

How – This could involve being physically present for someone, calling them when you can, or any other way you think it's best to demonstrate support for the person in danger. Make sure you follow through on the days you say you'll be able to help the person — be the one to show up and don't commit to anything you're not willing or able to do. If you can't be physically there with someone who is contemplating suicide, chat with them about who else might be able to help (again, only others who are willing, able, and appropriate to be there). Listening is again very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.

Keep Them Safe

How – For starters, everyone should be on the same page. After you've completed the "Ask" stage and determined that suicide is truly being discussed, you'll need to learn a few things to ensure your immediate safety. Is there anything they've done to try to kill themselves before talking to you? Is the individual contemplating suicide aware of how they would want to do it ? Do they have a well-thought-out strategy? What is their plan's timeline? What level of access do they have to the method they've devised?

Help Them Connect

How – Assisting someone who is thinking about suicide to connect with continuous resources (such as the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) will help them build a safety net for when they are in a crisis. Connecting people with services and resources in their communities could be another component of a safety net. Are they currently seeing a mental health professional? Discuss some of these options with them. Have they done so before? Is this a viable option for them right now? Is there anything else in the community that can help you with your mental health? Studies have indicated that following up with high-risk groups after they were discharged from acute care facilities reduced the frequency of suicide deaths. Brief, low-cost intervention and supportive, continuing contact has also been demonstrated to be a significant aspect of suicide prevention in studies.

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