Get Addiction Help (888) 804-0917

Suicide Prevention | Do’s and Don’ts When Talking with a Suicidal Person

Just over a month ago, September 4-10, 2011 to be exact, we experienced Suicide Prevention Week. The week surrounds Suicide Prevention Day, which September 10, 2011. The week primarily consists of sharing important information, training first responders, and engaging the family members, and professionals on how to have discussion about suicide and suicide prevention.

Over the course of the next months, we will be posting information about Suicide, Suicide Warning Signs and Suicide Prevention. It’s a heavy topic, but it affects nearly everyone. Rarely do we know anyone does not know someone or know of someone who either committed suicide has or made a suicide attempt.

Here are the Do’s and Don’ts when talking to a suicidal person.


  • Be yourself.
  • Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone.
  • The right words are often unimportant.
  • If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
  • Listen.
  • Let the suicidal person unload despair, ventilate anger.
  • No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
  • Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting.
  • Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
  • Offer hope.
  • Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary.
  • Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
  • If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
  • You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.


  • Don’t argue with the suicidal person. 
  • Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.” 
  • Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
  • Promise confidentiality.
  • Refuse to be sworn to secrecy.
  • A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe.
  • If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
  • Offer ways to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.
  • Blame yourself.
  • You can’t “fix” someone’s depression.
  • Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.

Where to Get Help

If you need help with the Do’s and Don’ts please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1800-273-TALK.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options


Enter the characters shown in the image.