What to Do if a Loved One Is Having Suicidal Thoughts

What To Do if a Loved One is Having Suicidal Thoughts

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, text or call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can also chat online at https://988lifeline.org/. 988 is always free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If this is an active emergency, please call 911 for emergency medical services right away.

When you suspect a loved one may be experiencing feelings of self-harm, suicide or suicidal passivity — a term sometimes used to refer to suicidal ideation — it can be frightening and disorienting. You want to protect their well-being but might feel helpless and unsure where to turn. It helps to approach the situation as you would with a physical illness — don't blame the sufferer, but instead, throw your support behind them. Lending an ear and providing empathy and support can make a lifesaving difference.

Here are warning signs of suicide and what to do if someone is trying to kill themselves.

Table of Contents

Ready to take the next step in your mental health recovery journey?

Learn About Your Treatment Options

How to Recognize If a Family Member Is Suicidal?

Learning the symptoms and risk factors of suicide can help you identify them in a loved one and encourage them to seek help. You might notice various changes, such as depression, changes in personality, self-harm behaviors or comments about wanting to die. If a family member talks about suicide, take them seriously and listen without judgment. Note that these warning signs may vary, and not everyone exhibits all of them.

Here are some key warning signs to be aware of:

  • Verbal cues: Pay attention to any direct or indirect statements related to suicide, death or self-harm. Comments like "I can't go on anymore" or "I wish I weren't here" should be taken seriously.
  • Emotional distress: Watch for signs of overwhelming sadness, despair or a prolonged sense of hopelessness. They may express feelings of being trapped or burdensome, believing that their situation is insurmountable.
  • Social withdrawal: Notice if your family member withdraws from previously enjoyed activities, social gatherings or relationships. They might isolate themselves, becoming increasingly distant from family and friends.
  • Drastic mood swings: Observe sudden and extreme changes in their mood, such as going from deep sadness to sudden calmness. This shift could indicate that they have made a decision to end their life.
  • Behavioral changes: Take note of significant alterations in their behavior patterns. This might include risky behaviors like increased substance use, driving recklessly or giving away prized possessions.
  • Experiencing recent trauma or life crisis: A suicide risk factor can include experiencing recent trauma or life crisis, such as losing a loved one, job loss, financial or relationship issues or diagnosis of a major illness.
  • Neglecting personal appearance: Pay attention if your family member starts neglecting their personal hygiene or appearance. This may indicate emotional distress and loss of interest in self-care.
  • Previous suicide attempts: If your family member has a history of suicide attempts or self-harm, it's crucial to be vigilant and provide appropriate support. Previous attempts are a significant risk factor for future attempts.
  • Seeking access to lethal means: Be cautious if they express a sudden interest in obtaining firearms, medication or other means that could be used for self-harm. This should be taken very seriously.
  • Making preparations: The person may start to arrange their personal business, such as visiting friends and family members, making a will or cleaning their room or home. They might search for ways to die or write a note before attempting suicide.

Should You Try to Help Your Suicidal Family Member?

If your family member displays any warning signs of suicide, you can keep them safe in several ways. While you may be unsure how to help a friend who is suicidal, starting by talking to them and being open-minded can provide the following benefits:

  • Protection: Your loved one's life is at stake. Taking action and providing support can make a significant difference. Your intervention may offer a lifeline and allow them to receive the help they need.
  • Emotional support: Showing your family member that you care and are there for them can provide much-needed emotional support. Your presence and willingness to listen without judgment can profoundly impact their well-being and sense of being understood. It can also help break that isolation and provide a supportive network.
  • Encouraging help-seeking: By reaching out and expressing your concerns, you can encourage your family member to seek professional help. Assure them that seeking assistance from mental health professionals is a sign of strength, not weakness. Offer to assist them in finding appropriate resources and accompany them to appointments if needed.
  • Reduce stigma: By actively supporting your suicidal family member, you contribute to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide. Openly discussing the topic and providing a safe space for conversations can help create a supportive environment for everyone involved.
  • Preventing future crises: Addressing the issue at hand and supporting your family member through their struggles may help prevent future crises. Encouraging them to develop coping mechanisms, seek therapy and encourage them to speak to their health care team if they have one.

How You Can Help Your Suicidal Family Member

If you have a family member who is suicidal, it's crucial to take immediate action and provide support. Here's how to help with suicidal family members or friends:

Ways to Help Family Members and Friends with Suicidal Thoughts

  • Show empathy and listen: Be present and offer a listening ear without judgment. Allow your family member to express their thoughts and emotions openly. Acknowledge their pain and let them know that you care. Experts suggest that talking about suicide openly can reduce risk.
  • Take their feelings seriously: Never dismiss or minimize their feelings. Take any talk or signs of suicide seriously and let them know that you believe their struggle is real. Avoid making statements that may invalidate their emotions.
  • Create a safety plan: Work with your family member and mental health professionals to develop a safety plan. This plan should include identifying triggers and warning signs, as well as strategies to cope with suicidal thoughts. Ensure they have access to emergency contacts and helpline numbers and keep a copy of their safety plan.
  • Remove potential means of self-harm: If there are immediate risks, help remove any objects or substances that could be used for self-harm. This may involve securing medications, firearms or other dangerous items, such as sharp objects or things that could become lethal or toxic, like household cleaners.
  • Involve other supportive individuals: Seek the involvement of other trusted family members, friends or professionals who can provide additional support, but be sure that both you and your loved one feel safe with whoever you choose to involve. Sharing the responsibility can help create a strong support network.
  • Educate yourself: To help a suicidal person, learn about suicide prevention, mental health disorders and available resources. Understanding the challenges your family member faces can empower you to provide better support.
  • Encourage professional help: Suggest and support their decision to seek professional help. Encourage them to reach out to a mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, who can provide the necessary guidance and treatment. Offer to assist in finding resources or accompany them to appointments.

Remember, if you believe your family member is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone. To help suicidal friends or family members, contact emergency services or the suicide hotline at 988. There is also an online chat feature. Your intervention and support can significantly impact their life and well-being.

Contact Diamond House to help your loved one manage mental health conditions

Find Help for a Loved One Today

Suicide is often preventable, and one of the best ways to support a loved one is by encouraging them to seek professional help. At Diamond House, our compassionate team can help your loved one manage mental health conditions like depression and suicidal thoughts with various levels of care and therapy services, including group and individual therapy and psychiatric care.

To learn more about our mental health care services, contact us today.


* Diamond House is not an emergency care facility. Please contact 911 emergency services if you or a loved one is in immediate danger.