Reaching Out is the First Step in Preventing Suicide

preventing suicide

When people are in distress, it is important to reach out and get help. This can be difficult, but it is the first step in preventing suicide.

Preventing suicide is a complex process that requires strategies at all levels of society. This includes prevention and protective strategies for individuals, families, and communities.

1. Talk to Someone

If you think a friend or family member may be at risk for suicide, talk to them about it. The person will feel relieved if they can express their feelings and you can reassure them that help is available.

Studies show that asking about suicide won’t “put the idea in their head,” or push them to do something self-destructive. In fact, it may even reduce the chances of suicide.

When a loved one tells you that they are having thoughts of suicide, listen to them calmly and ask them follow-up questions. They may have been feeling depressed or struggling for a long time, so it can be helpful to hear their story.

Never promise to keep suicidal thoughts or plans a secret or try to blame yourself for the situation. Always offer reassurance that things will get better with the right treatment. You can also reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) for support and information.

2. Get Help

If you think someone may be thinking about suicide, it’s important to get help. Talking to them about their feelings and concerns can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative thoughts, which can prevent an attempt.

Ask them directly, “Are you having thoughts of hurting or killing yourself?” This is an important question to ask without being judgmental. A lot of people who are thinking about suicide feel relieved when they can talk to someone.


After your initial contact with them, follow-up by leaving a message or sending a text to see how they are doing. This can help them establish a safety net that may include connecting them with ongoing supports like the 988 Lifeline and other resources they need in their community.

Lastly, reduce access to lethal tools and substances that could end their life. If your teen or friend has access to a gun, turn it over immediately to a trusted adult who will take it away.

3. Don’t Leave Them Alone

When someone tells you they are thinking of suicide, listen non-judgmentally and help them get the care they need. You may need to encourage them to seek professional help or make an appointment yourself.

A person who is trying to kill themselves usually does not want to die; they are hoping for an end to their pain and suffering. They often have no idea how to find a way to change their situation, but they are determined to do something about it.

They may try to kill themselves by using a lethal means such as a gun, poison or medication. Store medications safely and remove access to sharp objects such as knives or razor blades.

Suicide is a complex issue and requires a comprehensive public health approach. This includes making sure government, public health, healthcare, employers, education, the media and community organizations work together.

4. Follow Up

If you’ve gotten through the difficult conversation and helped someone find the help they need, be sure to follow up. That means sending a supportive postcard, emailing them about how much you care, or calling them to see how they are doing.

One study found that people who were followed up with a phone call after they left an emergency room or hospital with a safety plan were less likely to reattempt suicide. They were also more likely to have a higher level of satisfaction with the intervention (Yip 2011).

Researchers are currently comparing two kinds of follow-up support. One is called SPI+, which involves calls from a specialist at a suicide prevention hotline that helps people review and revise their safety plan and connects them to resources to address suicide risk factors. The other is CC, which involves 25 supportive text messages or emails from a suicide prevention hotline over a year.