How to Prevent a Suicide

Original Article from:  WikiHow
Image Source: Public Domain courtesy of George Hodan


Suicide never only affects the person that committed it. It affects everyone and the person too. But many suicidal thoughts can be prevented if the warning signs are recognized and proper action is taken. The steps below are for someone who is already having what is called: “Suicidal Ideation”. This means that they have already considered actions to harm themselves some way in order to feel something different than what is causing them distress.

Look for warning signs:


  • Recent loss of a loved one (death or divorce).
  • Survivor of a previous suicide attempt.
  • Loss of prestige (could be loss of job or business).
  • Serious illness (chronic pain or exhaustion with no end in sight).
  • Exhaustion of resources – could be real or imaginary (money or credit lines).
  • Family history of suicide.
  • A close friend commits suicide.


  • Talking or writing about death/suicide.
  • Giving away personal possessions.
  • Change in behaviors/mood.
  • Falling grades.
  • Ending close relationships.
  • Crying a lot.
  • Not smiling as much.
  • Not showing expression when they normally would.
  • Expressing negative impressions when normally they wouldn’t.
  • Talking about themselves negatively or harshly.
  • Not participating in regular activities.
  • Buying weapons, pills, etc.
  • Reading a lot about suicide.


  • Sense of personal failure.
  • Overwhelming sadness.
  • General lack of interest.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Guilt.
  • Withdrawal/isolation.
  • Feelings of being a burden to others.
  • Verbal:
  • “It’s too late now.”
  • “I can’t go on.”
  • “I have nothing to live for.”
  • “I’m just so tired of life.”
  • “No one cares about what happens to me.”
  • “There is nothing left to do.”
  • “What’s the use.”
  • “They won’t have to deal with me.”
  • “I’m at the end of my rope.”
  • “They’re better off without me.”
  • “I just want the pain to stop.”
  • “Nobody gets me.”
  • “You just don’t understand!”

If you see many warning signs in the person, you have to help them.

It won’t be easy, but remember CLUES:

  • Connect – Make contact with the person. Actively show that you hear what is being said and understand that his or her pain is real.
  • Listen – Listen very carefully. You don’t have to have all the answers – just be there and let him or her know that you care.
  • Understand – Don’t tell him or her how s/he should feel or what s/he should do. Just express your desire to support and help understand what s/he is feeling. Reflect what is said back to the person. Ex: S/he says: “I’ve tried everything, spent every dollar I have, but just don’t know what else to do.” You reply, “It’s frustrating when you feel you’ve tried so many things but there’s still no relief, isn’t it?” S/he may say, “And no one cares.” You reply, “You feel so alone – you’re not alone, though.” Above all, do not be afraid to voice the nearly unspeakable: “I’m so worried about you. Are you thinking about killing yourself now?” See the steps below for more details.
  • Express concerns – Let the person know that you are worried and want to help.
  • Seek help – The person’s safety is the number one priority, and you might not be able to handle it on your own. Talk with the person about seeking help, either through a doctor (preferred, if you discover they have a plan, the means and the intention of carrying it out) or clergy. Suicidal thoughts cannot be kept a secret.

Talk frankly.

One of the worst things for a person contemplating suicide is feeling that no one understands or cares about him or her. These people are often extremely frustrated over talking with friends and family only to find that they are placated with statements like, “Oh, you’ll feel better soon – this too shall pass.” Suicidal people feel like they’ve been trying to tell others how much pain they are in, but nobody hears them. The key to helping is to help this person stop feeling invisible. Though it seems counter-intuitive, saying, “Are you thinking of killing yourself now? Do you have a plan for doing it?” can bring tremendous relief to someone like this. They can feel that, at last, someone has heard them clearly. This is so hard to believe, but it is true.

Assess lethal intent.

If the person you are talking with confesses to contemplating suicide right at that moment, and also says s/he has a plan in mind for doing it, you need to figure out how serious s/he is and get all the information you can so whatever help you send is the best it can be:

  • Ask: Does s/he have a weapon? Is it with him or her?
  • If it’s pills, what kind? Where are those pills right now?
  • Has s/he thought about this before this moment? Recurring ideas about doing away with oneself point to a very serious threat.

Ask the person to put the items s/he plans to use in another room while you’re talking.

S/he may say, “Why? I can just go get them again.” You say, “Right. So why not just put them away for the moment? You can go get that whenever you want. Right now, I need you to stay with me and focus on our conversation.” This may sound harsh or blunt, but it is actually very effective. First, it focuses the person on someone other than him or herself. Second, it is almost a direct command. If this person is in the same room, or on the phone with you at this stage, s/he sees you as a minor authority figure. Use that authority to get the person to follow your instructions, even if it’s only for a moment.

Get a friend to help you.

Having ideas (especially ones they have been entertaining awhile), a plan, and the means to commit suicide constitute a very serious, immediate danger, and you should contact police immediately. If you’re on the phone, it’s best not to let this person know that’s what you’re doing though. Ideally, you will have a friend on your end who can quietly go and make the calls to send help to the suicidal person while you stay on the line and try to console or otherwise at least delay the person until help arrives. If you are alone, try to use another phone, if possible, to text someone and get them to help. If you are physically with the suicidal person, it’s a little easier, because suicides rarely happen with someone else present. Staying with the person until s/he sleeps or calms down some is recommended. never tell them how good their life is. because that will hurt them more. tell them that you are there for them so that way they will open up to you and tell you everything.


  • For Philippine Hotlines, click here.  In the United States, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for more information. Help for you and your depressed friend is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Avoid buying your friend gifts to make them feel better – indeed, the gifts may make the person feel guiltier. To some, gifts are more indication that they are “sick” and need presents to get better or that people would rather send them material things instead of spending time with them. Although this is not always the case – if you feel that you must give them something, it’s best if you play it safe and send them a card.
  • The tough thing with working with those that are contemplating suicide, it is important to determine why they are feeling so much despair that they are considering ending their life or harming themselves so.
  • Don’t be afraid that if you mention suicide, it will plant the idea in their head. If they are severely depressed, they have almost certainly already thought about it. You having the guts to actually say the word will probably be a refreshing change as suicidal people tend to feel they are invisible to others. Once you openly ask them if they are planning to hurt themselves, they will know you’ve heard them crying out in pain and understand how deadly serious they are.


  • If your friend tells you that she/he is going to commit suicide, get help immediately, even if they tell you to keep it secret. It is better to anger a friend than lose the actual human being. Do not pass it off as attention seeking or some sort of sick joke. If they tell you they want to kill themselves, help them or get help for them. Not believing there is danger will only make your friend feel worse.
  • Do not try to fix the situation all by yourself. Tell someone you know that the suicidal person can trust so that your suicidal friend will be connected with good help. It is not your responsibility or job to do this on your own. It is often a relief just to have other people know about it.
  • If they are actually attempting suicide, use any means necessary to safely stop them, and call emergency services. If it is not safe to do so (either by them possessing a weapon or being in an area that is difficult to safely access), do not approach them but instead call emergency services immediately.
  • Don’t ever tell them how good their life is. Because that will hurt them more. Tell them that you are there for them so that way they will open up to you and tell you everything.