How to Talk to a Friend About Suicide

What do I DO?

Discovering or hearing that a friend is considering suicide is never easy, but try to remain calm. Your friend has reached out to you for help - it may not feel like it in the moment, but this is good news. This means that you may be able to facilitate your friend getting the help they need. It does NOT mean that you are responsible to solve the problem yourself. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Listen carefully and attentively to your friend. Showing openness to hearing what your friend is thinking or feeling can help alleviate some of their shame and/or feelings of isolation. 
  • Let your friend know that you care. Additionally, act in a way that shows support (not judgment). 
  • Always take what they say seriously. 
  • Seek help or consultation.  Reach out to someone you can trust, like your RA or Hall Director. You can call PACS and ask to consult. 
  • Ask your friend directly if they are thinking about killing themselves. 
  • Ask your friend if any plans have been made.  If plans have been made and/or means have been obtained, get help immediately. 
  • Offer your friend some assistance in getting help. For instance, you can offer to walk them over to PACS to speak to a counselor (during regular business hours) or help them initiate a phone call to make an appointment. You can also offer to call emergency services on their behalf if there is an immediate safety threat. 

What do I SAY?

Conversation starters:

  • Mention things that are concerning to you. For example: "You have been acting really down lately," or "You've been missing a lot of classes and seem distracted." 
  • Be direct. "Have things gotten so desperate that you are thinking about suicide?" or "Have you ever thought about killing yourself?"

Once the conversation has been initiated, the best thing to do is to listen attentively and remain calm. Let your friend/peer know that help is available and that there are treatments that work. 

There is no perfect script for talking to someone about suicide.
How to show your friend/peer that you care:

  • be a good listener
  • offer them support
  • assist in finding help 

Additional tips...

It's always best to talk to a friend who you are concerned may be considering suicide. Your friend/peer will be more likely to get help if you  listen attentively to their concerns. 

However, it is important to note some pitfalls that people can find themselves in during these types of discussions so that you can avoid them:

  • It may be tempting to try to cheer your friend up or (even gently) tell them to get over it. Doing this, however, it is not effective in the long-run. 
  • Don't assume the situation will be resolved on its own. Follow through with the necessary steps to either help your friend/peer connect with appropriate resources or support. 
  • Don't allow yourself to be sworn to secrecy. If you are genuinely concerned, you should definitely reach out for consultation and/or emergency services. Instead of making this promise, let your friend know that you are there for them, but their safety and well-being is your priority. The rationale behind this is two-fold: a) you do not want to make any false promises, and b) any barriers to you reaching out for help can be a matter of life and death. 
  • Try not to leave your friend/peer alone until help is available, unless they act in a threatening way (in which case call 911).