Always take seriously the warning signs of suicide and any threats to attempt suicide, even if you think the individual is not seriously thinking about suicide or is just seeking attention. Follow these three steps to offer support—Ask, Care, Tell.
Step 1: Ask
Ask the person directly if they are thinking about suicide. You might ask, “Are you thinking about ending your life?” If they say that 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 help them get to a hospital or healthcare clinic, or call an emergency service provider or call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If they do not have a plan, move to Step 2.
Step 2: Care
Show that you care by listening to what they say. Give them time to explain how they are feeling. 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.” You might offer to help them create a suicide-prevention safety plan. A safety plan can help people identify their personal strengths, positive relationships, and healthy coping skills. It can also reduce their access to means of self-harm, such as weapons or pills. If they ask you not to tell anyone about their feelings, explain that you will respect their privacy as much as possible but they need more help than you can give. Never promise to keep their thoughts of suicide secret.
Step 3: Tell
Encourage the person to tell someone who can offer more support. Share contact information for helpful resources in your area. Resources may include Humboldt General Hospital, physician clinics or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 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 tell 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 religious leader, a school counselor, a doctor, or a mental health professional. If you are not sure who to tell, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Remember, you are not expected to support the person on your own.
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