Suicide: How to Help

A person who is feeling suicidal may not openly ask for help, but that doesn't mean they don't want help. Most who complete suicide don't necessarily want to die, they just want to stop hurting and don't see another alternative. By recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously, you can help prevent suicide.

Helping Youth Struggling with Suicide

A common thought about suicidal talk in young people is that they are just searching for attention or are being overly dramatic, but don't really mean it. It is important to never dismiss talk of suicide, even from a child or teen who may not mean it, or from someone who seems to have a "perfect life" on the outside - you never know what is going on behind closed doors. Responding to threats and other warning signs in a serious and thoughtful manner lets a friend or loved one know you value their life, and they should too. 

How to Respond to Suicidal Talk or Threats

If you spot warning signs of suicide, you may wonder if it is right to say something. While it is a tough situation that may cause you to feel uncomfortable or afraid, you can't make a person suicidal by talking about it and showing you care. By giving a person who is suicidal the opportunity to express him- or herself, you are providing relief from feelings of loneliness and isolation, and may even prevent a suicide attempt.  

To start a conversation about suicide, let the person know you have been concerned about them lately and wanted to check in that he/she is okay. If a friend or loved one does express suicidal thoughts or intentions, it is important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. If he/she has a specific plan, the means to carry out the plan, a set time and the intention to do it:

  • Do not leave them alone
  • Have them call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
  • Help them remove lethal means, such as firearms and drugs
  • Call or escort them to their counselor, therapist or psychiatrist, or call Orchard Place's Child Guidance Center at (515) 244-2267 or the after-hours number at (515) 202-1647
  • In an emergency, call 9-1-1

If you do not think there is an immediate danger, offer help and support. You can ask questions like:

  • How can I best support you?
  • When did you begin feeling this way?
  • Did something happen that made you start feeling like this?

You can also let the person know they are not alone and that it is okay for them to share their pain with you. What you say is less important than really listening to the person and showing your concern in the tone and manner in which you respond. Ways you can respond include:

  • I want you to know I am here for you and that you are not alone.
  • While I don't know exactly how you are feeling, I do care about you and want to help.
  • You may not believe it right now, but the way you are feeling will change.

While your support is important, a person that is suicidal will likely need additional help. Anyone confronted with a child or teen threatening suicide should contact a mental health care professional, even if you have doubts about the seriousness of a suicidal threat.

Get Support from Orchard Place

If you or a loved one is in need of help, Orchard Place is here. Our Child Guidance Center offers outpatient therapy services for youth, birth to 18. Families can access these services by calling (515) 244-2267 and asking to speak to our intake specialist. At intake, the therapist will assess the risk of you or your loved one and make a referral to the emergency room for further assessment if needed. If you are unable to keep yourself or your loved one safe, do not wait - go directly to the nearest emergency room. 

You can also call the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or, for the hearing impaired, at 1-800-799-4889 to access help 24/7.