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 Frequently asked questions about suicide prevention

People who talk about suicide don’t really kill themselves, do they? My friend has been talking about killing herself lately. How can I know for sure if she is really considering suicide?

In almost every suicide, there is a steady effort by the victim to express his or her fear and frustration. Not all communication is verbal, but when notice is given, it should be taken seriously, if not literally. Don’t act as if the situation isn’t serious. Talk to, listen to, draw your friend into conversation. Try to be calm and understanding. Don’t minimize the potential victim’s threats.

Is an attempted suicide a serious effort to die? It seems like if it were serious, it would be successful.

Every suicide effort is a serious expression of emotional distress and irrational thinking. Some people desire to die; others are signaling their desperate desire to get help in order not to die.

Is it wrong to ask someone, “Are you thinking of committing suicide?” It seems like that question might actually lead a person to attempt suicide.

Asking such a question may in fact lessen stress and lead to productive, life-saving counseling. Avoid minimizing the root causes of the person’s concern. Explore alternatives, discuss consequences, reaffirm the person’s intrinsic value as a human being. Familiarize yourself with crisis intervention services in your area and seek their help in any potentially serious situation.


Aren’t mental health professionals the only people who can truly prevent suicides? I just don’t see what I can do to help since I don’t have any training or expertise.

Volunteers and concerned friends are often very effective at preventing suicide. If you are concerned, you can probably help. Do not underestimate your value as a compassionate listener. Encourage the person to talk. Offer to accompany him or her to see another trusted person. Emphasize the temporary nature of most problems. Explain how most crises pass in time and that suicide is a permanent and drastic response to a temporary problem. Be a friend or companion if the situation allows.


Ways to help someone who has lost a loved one to suicide:

Give lots of love & understanding

Be careful—don’t smother the person

Listen compassionately

Listen attentively

Allow the person to think out loud

Help the person sort out their grief

Give special attention to siblings

Allow siblings to express grief openly

Encourage good memories for siblings

Offer to help with official papers

Help with police reports

Help with insurance claims


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