Will talking about suicide make someone more likely to attempt suicide?
There is a common myth that asking someone about suicide can put the idea into their head. This is not true. Several studies examining this concern have demonstrated that asking people about suicidal thoughts and behavior does not induce or increase such thoughts and experiences. In fact, asking someone directly, “Are you thinking of killing yourself,” can be the best way to identify someone at risk for suicide.
What should I do if someone tells me they are thinking about suicide?
Never promise to keep someone’s thoughts of suicide secret. If they ask you not to tell anyone, explain that you will respect their privacy as much as possible but they need more help than you can give. Encourage them to tell someone who can offer more support. Share contact information for suicide prevention resources in your area. If they will not seek help, you need to tell someone for them. You may want to say something such as, “I care about you and want you to be safe. I am going to call someone who can offer you the help you need.” Respect their privacy by telling only someone you think can help, such as a close family member, the person’s church leader, a school counselor, or a mental health professional.
How do I start a conversation with someone I'm worried about?
Find a time and place where you can both feel safe to talk. Tell your friend that you genuinely care about them. Explain what you’ve observed recently, such as, “You seem so unhappy lately.” Give them time to explain how they are feeling. Show that you care by listening to what they say. Respect their feelings by saying something such as, “I’m sorry you are in so much pain” or “I didn’t realize how hard things were for you.” When the time seems right, ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide. You might say something such as, “Are you thinking about taking your life?” If they say they are thinking about suicide, ask them if they have a plan. You might ask, “Do you have a plan to hurt yourself?” If they have a plan, immediately call an emergency service provider or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If they do not have a plan, show that you care by listening to what they say. Then encourage them to tell someone who can offer more support.
What if someone is posting suicidal messages on social media?
Knowing how to get help for a friend posting suicidal messages on social media can save a life. Many social media sites have a process to report suicidal content and get help for the person posting the message. In addition, many of the social media sites use their analytic capabilities to identify and help report suicidal posts. Each offers different options on how to respond if you see concerning posts about suicide. For example:
If you see messages or live streaming suicidal behavior on social media, call 9-1-1 or contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255, or text the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1–800–799–4889. All calls are confidential. This service is available to everyone. People—even strangers—have saved lives by being vigilant.
How can I support someone who has survived a suicide attempt?
Loved ones can play an important role in the recovery of a suicide attempt survivor. Feeling loved and included can give attempt survivors hope for the future and may help them avoid another suicide attempt. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you offer support:
How can I support someone who has lost a loved one to suicide?
Friends can be a great support to families who have lost a loved one by suicide. Suicide is often a sudden, traumatic event and can intensify the grief of those involved. Understand that the grieving process takes time. The best care you can provide is to help someone feel loved. When an individual or family has lost a loved one by suicide, observe their needs and try to support them. Be aware that holidays and anniversaries may be especially difficult.
How do I hold a discussion about suicide in my family?
Talking about suicide will not make someone more likely to attempt suicide. In fact, talking openly about suicide is an effective way to help prevent suicide. Parents may want to hold discussions about preventing suicide, dealing with suicide loss, and helping those who are struggling. These discussions should be sensitive, caring and age-appropriate. Be careful when holding a discussion to avoid language that could cause someone to relive intense pain. During discussions after a suicide loss, do not talk about how a person took their life. This may unintentionally encourage someone in the group to copy the behavior described. If someone begins to share these details in a group setting, redirect the conversation in a kind way.
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