Are they thinking about suicide?

Thank you for picking up on the clues that something may be wrong.  Many times people just dismiss that feeling.  Your attention may help prevent a crisis from escalating.

If you sense that something may be wrong.  Ask.  Are you thinking about suicide? or Are you thinking about killing yourself? 

Research shows that asking such questions does not make people more suicidal.  It does put talking about suicide right out on the table, so always be prepared and know what to do if they say “yes.”

According to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), a group that studies suicide and works on prevention, here are some clues that we should pay attention to:


  • Losing hope
  • Having “no reason for living”
  • Feeling trapped, “there’s no way out”
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Rage, uncontrollable anger, or seeking revenge
  • Reckless or risky behavior
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Anxiety, restlessness, being stressed out
  • Being unable to sleep, or sleeping too much

You might be thinking, “OK, so now what do I do if they are thinking about suicide?”


  • Tell them about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline [800-273-TALK (8255)], confidential help available 24 / 7 / 365.
  • Take them seriously, and be compassionate – help them feel worthwhile and loved.
  • Encourage them to reach out to a professional – therapist, doctor, clergy or other spiritual advisor, dean, or professor – they have additional resources to use for getting them help.
  • Encourage them to seek support from family and friends – additional support helps prevent suicide.
  • Be willing to listen, allow them to express their feelings – sometimes a crisis can be lessened by just venting.
  • Offer hope that help is available – hope counteracts suicidal feelings.
  • Get them to give you the gun, pills, rope, razor, or whatever they were going to use to attempt suicide.
  • Get some support for yourself, from the Lifeline or from others – helping someone through a suicidal crisis is easier when you have help.


  • Don’t dare them to do it – that might make them more intent on attempting suicide.
  • Don’t act shocked – that might make them less likely to continue talking with you about it, and they need to keep talking to get help.
  • Don’t keep it a secret – they might not say it, but they need someone (you) to get them to the help they need.
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong – right now they just need your support.
  • Don’t judge feelings as right or wrong – just let the feelings be feelings, right now they already feel like everything they do is wrong.
  • Don’t lecture them on the value of life – just focus on keeping them safe for now… and then later you can tell them about what you like about them, the good things you see about their life, what you admire, and what about their life makes it worth saving.

Adapted from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the American Association of Suicidology.