How Family and Friends Can Help

feeling lost

Many of us want to help a friend or loved one, but don't know where to start. 

You may be wondering how to help someone you care about who may be suicidal. This can be a frightening concern and people often wonder what they can do while worrying about doing the wrong thing.  

There are many things that can help; here are some of the most important:

  1. Be aware of and learn the suicide warning signs.
  2. Get involved and show interest and support.
  3. Ask the person if they are having thoughts of suicide.
  4. Be direct and use the word “suicide” or “killing yourself.”
  5. Be willing to listen and accept the person’s feelings. 
  6. Don’t judge the person for their feelings or thoughts or lecture them.
  7. Never dare them to “just do it.”
  8. Try to avoid “why” questions – these tend to make people defensive.
  9. Don’t be sworn to secrecy, it will be important for you and the person who may be thinking of suicide to have additional support.
  10. Do offer hope that alternatives to suicide are available.
  11. If there are lethal means to suicide available, remove the means. Get help from agencies specializing in crisis and suicide prevention.


These are significant warning signs:

  • Someone threatening to kill him/herself or talking about wanting to do this.
  • Someone looking for ways to kill him/herself by getting access to guns, available pills or other means.
  • Someone who is talking about or writing about death, dying or suicide when this is out of the ordinary for the person.


Additional warning signs include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrollable anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless, doing dangerous things without thinking
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out of their situation
  • Increase in alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Anxiety, trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Having no sense of purpose in life


Important facts to remember:

  • Suicide is preventable. Most people do want to live but are unable to see through their pain to what other choices they have.
  • Talking about suicide does not cause someone to be suicidal.
  • You can help save a life by caring, listening and acting to get help.


If you believe someone is at risk for suicide or has made a suicide attempt:

  • Don't leave the person alone.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room yourself.
  • Try to find out if he or she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose.
  • Tell a family member or friend right away what's going on.

Click on Live Chat, call (855) 581-8111, or text (855) 895-8398.

Call Your Life Iowa

Contact Your Life Iowa - We are here to help you deal with suicidal thoughts that you or a loved one may be having. Our caring experts are available to listen to you. We are here for you and your call is confidential.

Actively Listen

Really listen to what the person is saying, because you care about them. Be attentive to their words and sensitive to their emotions. You can also summarize what the person is saying to make sure you understand by repeating a paraphrase of what they've said. Be engaged with the person and use eye contact. You're concerned for their health and safety so it's good to really hear where they are coming from.

Watch for Warning Signs

People who are dealing with thoughts about suicide can feel trapped. They can feel out of control and have no way to escape from their crisis. Be aware of feelings like this. If you’re worried for yourself for a friend, call us at Your Life Iowa any time.

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