Horizon Blog

What to Do If You Suspect that a Loved One is Suicidal

October 14th, 2019

Two women friends resting in the garden, watching the sunshine together happily.Someone dies by suicide in the United States every 12 minutes. The next time you’re in a café, grocery store, or surrounded by your family and friends, consider the reality that depression—a leading cause of suicidal ideation—affects 20 to 25 percent of Americans over 18. The number of people suffering from emotional pain who consider, or attempt to take their own life is staggering. If you know or believe that a loved one in your life is considering suicide, know that you can make a difference in their life—by saving it.

Below we offer advice for what to do for a loved one who is suicidal, but first, make a note of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. (For those of you who live in Western New York, we’ve included more resources at the end of this article.)

#1 – Become Familiar with the Warning Signs

Some people who are considering self-harm become adept at hiding their blatant desperation, which means you must familiarize yourself with the broad range of subtle and outward signs of suicidal ideation. These factors may include:

  • Sharing thoughts of loneliness, desperation, or feeling trapped.
  • Talking about physical pain.
  • Saying that they feel they are a burden to others.
  • Removing themselves from society, avoiding social or work obligations, or not getting out of bed on some days.
  • Increasing the frequency and severity of their use of alcohol or recreational drugs.
  • Behaving recklessly.
  • Talking about wanting to die.
  • Purchasing a dangerous weapon or stocking up on medication.

#2 – Assess the Severity of Their Feelings

Sometimes people who discuss self-harm are primarily seeking attention and the reassurance that someone cares about their well-being. However, one should never assume that any talk of self-harm is an empty threat or should not be taken seriously. If someone in your life makes statements or suggestions that lead you to believe they may consider suicide, ask such questions as:

  • How do you cope with the feelings you are describing?
  • Do you ever feel like you can’t go on?
  • Are you considering self-harm or suicide?
  • Have you thought about how you would do it?

If these blunt questions reveal that your loved one has a plan in mind, get help from an expert resource immediately.

#3 – Get Professional Help

Being supportive of your loved one is critical to helping them feel supported and hopeful, but do not think that you need to have all the answers or that you are solely responsible for keeping them from taking desperate measures. Seek professional help from a trained suicide prevention expert, such as a mental health counselor, an inpatient treatment facility, a physician, or a crisis hotline. If you fear their actions may be imminent, call 911. A professional expert can help guide you and your loved one through obtaining the care needed to help them see what they have to live for—which is everything.

While for every one suicide, there are 25 attempts, the irreversible risks cannot be understated. Be proactive, ask questions, and get help for anyone in your life whom you fear may be considering taking the irreversible step of suicide. You may be able to save someone’s life.


Suicide Prevention Resources:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.

Crisis Services of Erie County: (716) 834-3131

Niagara County Crisis Hotline: (716) 285-3515

Horizon Health Services: 716-831-1800

If suicide is imminent, call 9-1-1.

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