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What You Should Do if You Suspect Someone is Suicidal

Mental health awareness has been gaining some traction for some time now, but there is still a general lack of awareness about what to do if someone is suicidal. If someone close to you is talking about taking their own life, it may make you feel worried and scared for their well-being, and that’s a natural reaction when you don't know what to do.

When you suspect that someone close to you is considering ending their life, you may feel compelled to get help for them in any way possible, which is the right way to think. While there is not enough awareness out there, you can still understand when someone you love is in distress and their talk of suicide may be enough to spur you on to get them help.

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

There are many signs that someone who you love may be suicidal. These signs can include:

  • Articulating that they would like to end their life.
  • Gathering the means to follow through with that thinking.
  • Withdrawing socially from those around them.
  • Going through mood swings that shift quickly.
  • Talking, writing or drawing about violence and dying.
  • Articulating feelings of hopelessness or depression.
  • Increasing their use of alcohol, drugs, or engaging in other damaging types of behavior.
  • Leaning into self-destructive actions.
  • Starting to give away their belongings and items.
  • Saying goodbye.

The good news is that even if you are concerned about someone’s mental health, there are things that you can do if you suspect that they are suicidal. We’ve detailed some of those things for you below:

Call Your Local Crisis Line

Every state and every town has a mental health crisis line. Some people aren't comfortable with calling a crisis line, but thankfully due to the digital world we live in today, many of these crisis lines come in the form of a live chat box on a website. Calling the local crisis line is also a smart thing to do for your own personal health, because living with or loving someone who is suicidal can be hard on you, too.

Crisis lines can help you get some answers as to what to do to help, and they can help to get the person struggling to discuss how they feel. If your friend or loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, having a professional on the other line to talk them through what they are thinking or feeling can help them feel listened to while also presenting them with less harmful solutions than suicide. The crisis team can also help them to get the additional support and help that they need.

Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988

Another option for those suspecting that someone close to them is suicidal is to call the Suicide Prevention Hotline by dialing 988. This number was set up as a step before dialing 911, with those calling through getting the help that they need as quickly as possible. This hotline is available night and day and is designed to ensure that if there is any concern, an ambulance can be sent to the address of the caller.

The Suicide Prevention Hotline is staffed with volunteers who make themselves available to support, listen and empathize with those who are in the midst of a struggle. Directing someone you love to this hotline is important if you have any concerns.

Inform Their Loved Ones of Your Concern

While it may be tempting to keep the counsel of someone who comes to you to talk about suicidal thoughts, it’s more important for you to get some help than to keep a secret. Informing their loved ones of your concerns for their mental health doesn't just bring awareness to the situation, but you gain some support while you are dealing with it, too.

Their life is so much more important and more precious than worrying if they’ll be mad if you reach out to others. Their anger is better than your grief if they manage to follow through with any plans to harm themselves. Informing their loved ones of what’s happening is smart, and it’s going to help you all in the long run to surround them with love and support.

Be Gentle But Direct

If you suspect someone near to your heart is suicidal, then you should be gentle but firm in letting them know you are there to help, but you’re not doing it alone. Let them know that you will be contacting their loved ones, a crisis helper, and their family. If someone is telling you in the moment that they are going to hurt themselves, calling a doctor or an ambulance is also important.

The person who has told you about feeling suicidal may beg you not to tell anyone, and they may be upset that you even attempt to, but being resolute in your actions to get them help is key. Your support and your loyalty are a given, but be direct and act quickly to start getting the affected individual assistance. It’s also imperative to be gentle and not angry when delivering your message to them. You don’t want to potentially make their struggle or level of stress worse because of your tone.

Ask Them How You Can Help

Lastly, the best thing to do if you suspect that someone in your life is suicidal is to ask them directly what they need. What would make them feel better? What would make them feel more secure? There are plenty of facilities that can support people you suspect are suicidal and there are people to speak to. Giving all of the information possible to your friend or loved one is the best thing that you can do, in addition to asking them what else you can do to help. Providing your assistance is the first step, but asking about other ways you can support them – even if they just need someone to listen – can enable you to formulate a plan to preserve their life.

Mental health treatment centers such as Jackson House are here to assist people with their mental health struggles. Contact us today for an appointment.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.