Suicide: What to Do When You Fear Someone May Take Their Life

From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Most suicidal people give some warning of their intentions. The most effective way to prevent a friend or loved one from taking their life is to recognize when someone is at risk, take the warning signs seriously and know how to respond. The depression and emotional crises that so often precede suicides are -- in most cases -- both recognizable and treatable.

Take It Seriously

• Seventy-five percent of suicidal people give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.

• All suicide threats and attempts must be taken seriously.

Be Willing to Listen

• Take the initiative to ask what is troubling them and persist to overcome any reluctance to talk about it.

• If professional help is required, the person you care about is more apt to follow such a recommendation if you have listened to him or her.

• If your friend or loved one is depressed, don't be afraid to ask whether he or she is considering suicide, or even if they have a particular plan or method in mind.

• Do not attempt to argue anyone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care and understand, that he or she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary, that depression can be treated and that problems can be solved. Avoid the temptation to say, "You have so much to live for," or "Your suicide will hurt your family."

Seek Professional Help

• Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a physician or mental health professional immediately. Individuals contemplating suicide often don't believe they can be helped, so you may have to do more. For example, a suicidal college student resisted seeing a psychiatrist until his roommate offered to accompany him on the visit. A 17-year-old accompanied her younger sister to a psychiatrist because her parents refused to become involved.

• You can make a difference by helping the person in need of help find a knowledgeable mental health professional or reputable treatment facility.

In an Acute Crisis

• In an acute crisis, take your friend or loved one to an emergency room or walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital.

• Do not leave them alone until help is available.

• Remove from the vicinity any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

• Hospitalization may be required and may be necessary at least until the crisis abates.

• If a psychiatric facility is unavailable, go to your nearest hospital or clinic.

• If the above options are unavailable, call your local emergency number or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Follow-up on Treatment

• Suicidal patients are often hesitant to seek help and may run away or avoid it after an initial contact unless there is support for their continuing.

• If medication is prescribed, take an active role to make sure they are taking the medication and be sure to notify the physician about any unexpected side effects. Often, alternative medications can be prescribed.

Related articles:
The Grief of Sibling Survivors
Running Through the Pain
Youth Suicide: What You Can Say and Do to Help the Survivors
Helping Your Bereaved Friend

Also from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
Why Did This Happen?
What Do I Do Now?

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research and education, and to reaching out to people with mood disorders and those impacted by suicide.


Image via stock.xchng / Frangue


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Comment by Jackie on March 14, 2018 at 10:28am

It is very sad when a person gets to a place in their life where they see the only option is to take their life. Hope has fled them and they felt that no one could help them or understand their emotional, physical, and mental plight.

Comment by Doug Hosie on February 17, 2017 at 6:28pm

Hello, I've read a number of the posts about suicide and I'm very sorry for all the losses suffered by those who commented. I have very different feelings about suicide. I've been struggling with depression for many years and I've been to a number of psychiatrists in the past all of which did their best by prescribing various medications. There came a point after none of those medications when all they could recommend was ECT(Electro Convulsive Therapy) which I chose not to accept because there were no guarantees, or a good chance, that would even help. Earlier in my life I had become severely addicted to prescription painkillers and because of that addiction I had committed a number of crimes. The crimes were not violent in nature nor did I hurt anyone else besides myself, and for those crimes I was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Of which I served 19 years, four months. After being released from prison, none of the people I knew before I went in were either long gone or had passed away. Finding an apartment of my own was initially okay, but after a period of time with absolutely no friends loneliness set in and it wasn't until just a few months ago did I know the extreme pain of loneliness. There isn't anyone I can call to talk to when that pain becomes unbearable for me. I have tried going to churches which unfortunately didn't help. Unbeknownst to me I had been infected with the Hep C virus either before I went to prison or during my incarceration and during the time I didn't know about it the virus, it had devastated my liver. When I started becoming sick I went to a doctor and he was the one who made the diagnosis. My only option now is a transplant which because of the long waiting list. I don't have any transportation any longer and my days now are spent in my small one bedroom apartment. Being sick most of the time because of the damage to my liver doesn't allow me much freedom to go anywhere anyway. I cannot find the words that would adequately describe the pain of loneliness and the isolation. There have been many times when my phone wouldn't ring for weeks at a time and although I realize this will sound strange, I have longed for a wrong number call at times. I have absolutely no happiness or hope in my life to cling to, and the futility of my situation only causes me more pain. What I would like to ask is why is suicide looked on as being so wrong? Why do I need to continue to suffer this agonizing pain day after day, year after year, because of it not being acceptable in today's society? Who else, besides God, has the right to tell me that I have to continue to suffer this pain? There's no one left behind that would be hurt or even miss me being gone. Why is it so wrong to want to leave this world behind? Thank you

Comment by Chilli on September 25, 2011 at 4:07pm
hi thomas an marika Im a survivor of suicide  I really am not in a place to say much because i have felt all the pain and emptieness you are probably feeling right now but let me tell you god has a plan for your lives and while I was in that hospital dying he reminded me of who I was and his plan for my life I had never felt greater pain almost lifeless an living I could feel the swelling in my heart on a daily basis till one day I just gave up I didnt want it anymore I turned from being a nice gentle person into somebody I didnt know I was losing myself my sense of time and place I gave into the call of death but today im the victor because death didnt have its victory I called out on the name of god and with great power he stepped in and told death all the reasons I had for living today im alive to tell you how much I love you even tho I dont know you personally I no your pain dont let pain be the reason for death but the reason to live and promise god will show you your victory with all my love TERESA
Comment by Thomas Todisco on May 24, 2011 at 6:59pm
I have to stop myself from thinking those thoughts, is it the hard way or the easy way? I lost my Dad last month. Having difficulty day to day. I took care of him by myself for 3-1/2 years. I have 3 sisters that I am ashamed of. They all took the easy way and put Dad in Hospice even though he was improving.  My Dad always told me to stay strong, for now that is the only thing I am holding on to. It is good to talk with you. Feel free to reply. Tommy
Comment by Marika on November 28, 2009 at 5:32pm
I think of suicide often

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