Promoting and protecting the health and safety of all Idahoans

How to Help

The following information can help you recognize suicidal tendencies in individuals, learn how to speak to them effectively and get them to help

Know the warning signs and look for them:

  • Threatening suicide

  • Talking or writing about suicide

  • Isolation or withdrawal (from family, friends,activities, etc.)

  • Agitation, especially combined with sleeplessness

  • Nightmares

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)

  • Seeking methods to kill oneself

  • Feeling hopeless or trapped

  • Co-occurring depression, moodiness and hopelessness

  • Unexplained anger, aggression or irritability

  • Recent loss of family member or friend through divorce, suicide or other death

  • Changes in eating, sleeping, personal care or other patterns

  • Increased alcohol or drug use

  • Taking unnecessary risks/recklessness

  • No longer interested in favorite activities or hobbies

  • Chronic headaches, stomach aches or fatigue

  • Sudden, unexpected loss of freedom or fear of punishment or humiliation

Some of these warning signs may also be considered a triggering event. For those who are already highly suicidal, a triggering event may push them closer to making an attempt. Other triggering events may include:

Other triggering events:

  • Acquiring lethal means (firearms, pills, etc.)

  • Being expelled from school or fired from work

  • A recent unwanted move

  • Loss of any major relationship

  • Public embarrassment

  • Serious financial issues

Ask the suicide question:  Trust your gut if you are concerned about someone.  Even if you are in doubt,
ask.  Ask directly: “Are you thinking of suicide/killing yourself?”  Or use the warning signs you’ve noticed to ask: “I’ve noticed you seem to be (warning signs).  Sometime when people are (warning signs) they are thinking of suicide. Are you?”  

Asking someone if they are considering suicide creates a sense of belonging for them.  With that one question, you become someone who recognized the deep sense of emotional pain felt by the suicidal person.  If they say they are suicidal you will need to listen well, instill hope and get them to help.  If the person denies it but you are doubtful of their denial, listen, and then ask again.  You may even try to insist on getting them to help.
Listen well:  Sometimes listening well is all that is needed because it creates a sense of belonging which may prevent a suicide attempt.  Listening well means putting your own fear on hold and giving the person your full attention.  Do not try to solve their problems. Simply reflect back to the person what you are hearing, e.g., “You sound very sad.  You seem overwhelmed,” etc.  Do not rush to judgment or argue with them.
Instill hope:  You can help the suicidal person feel more hopeful by using hopeful statements like, “I care if you live.” “I’m here for you.” “We’ll get through this.”  Anything you can say that uses “we,” “us” or “let’s” is helpful because it implies two people together.  Encourage the person to discuss their reasons for living, their strengths, things that give them enjoyment, positive people or experiences in their lives.
Get help:  Help may look different in different situations; regardless, never leave a suicidal person alone.  The best thing to do is get them to help directly.  Help them contact a mental health provider.  Get others involved such as family, friends, clergy, or someone else they trust.  If you will be leaving them with someone, make sure that person will not leave them alone until they receive help.  You may want to call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 
The hotline can also provide you with referrals to mental health professionals and other resources.  If the person threatens suicide while you are talking and has a weapon, call 911.