What to do when you or someone you know needs help in a crisis:

Submitted by Neha Rajan

According to the CDC, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States for all ages. Often times when one of these tragedies makes headlines, the most common advice is to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 

However; many people may find it difficult to reach out. Here’s what you can do to help a loved one who may be struggling:

Know the signs (Awareness is key!)

Children and adolescents: reckless behavior, neglect of personal appearance, personality change, sudden mood changes, changes in sleep, withdrawal, giving away personal belongings, hopelessness

Older adults: failure to take care of self, withdrawal, saying goodbye, hopelessness, getting affairs in order, depression  


Know how to best handle the conversation:

Be sympathetic and non-judgemental

Avoid phrases like look on the bright side, it’ll hurt your family, there is so much to live for, etc.; do not offer ways to fix their problems or advice on the value of life, but reassure them that they are important to you, they are not alone, there is always hope!  

Actively listen to their feelings and show that you are giving your undivided attention.

Do not promise secrecy!

Create a Safety Plan:

Develop a plan with the person to stay safe until they are able to meet with a professional (Example here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Brown_StanleySafetyPlanTemplate.pdf)

If you are concerned about your own or others safety, call 911 immediately

You can also go to the Emergency Room or walk in crisis clinic if you feel the situation is critical

Know additional accessible resources:

Such as your school counselor, general practitioner or a mental health professional

Crisis Text Lines: text HOME to 741741



National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI): 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Apps such as ASK and Prevent Suicide, Suicide Crisis Support, Virtual Hope Box, and My3 Safety Plan App

All around the world, suicide is still misunderstood and stigmatized. Beginning a conversation may be difficult, but be compassionate, be aware, and be strong. Together, we can dismantle that idea that suicide can’t be talked about.  


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