How To Best Help A Loved One Who Speaks About Ending Their Life

If you're in a serious situation dealing with a loved one who has been talking about ending their own life, there are several ways you can go about handling it before anything horrible happens. notes that suicide is considered a grave public health problem that can impact the lives of entire communities. In other words, the devastating implications of suicide impact individuals, family members, and entire communities.


Namica explains that for those aged between 10 and 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Suicide rates have increased in the United States by 31% since 2001, which means more actions need to be taken in order to see legitimate changes in suicide prevention. You might feel like you have no idea where to start when dealing with someone you care about who starts discussing the possibility of ending their own life. These are some of the things you can do to become more aware of warning signs and join the side of prevention.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Notice the warning signs

In some cases, your loved one might be open and honest with you about their suicidal thoughts. In other cases, you'll need to keep your eyes open for potential warning signs. Namica says if you notice your loved one increasing their usage of alcohol or drugs, you have reason to be alarmed. If you start noticing more aggressive behavior coming from them, that is a warning sign too. If they've started withdrawing from friends, family, and community, that's another red flag that you should start paying closer attention to them. 

Advertisement explains that if your loved one continually talks about feeling hopeless or having no purpose in life, it might be time to dive in and have a serious discussion with them about what's going on and how you can help. Describing themselves as a burden to others, sleeping way too much or way too little, or displaying mood swings that are considered extreme also indicate that something might be wrong. Some of the bigger and more obvious signs include your loved one purchasing a weapon, gathering pills, or giving away their most prized possessions.

Pay attention to risk factors

There's a lot to consider when it comes to a topic as heavy and serious as suicide. The risk factors directly connected to your loved one can hugely impact the way they're feeling about ending their own life. The Suicide Prevention Center of New York State explains that if your loved one has a family member who ended their own life in the past, the risk of them ending their own life down the line becomes a lot higher. 


If they've had failed suicide attempts in the past, it means the risk factor for them actually following through on another attempt is higher compared to others who have never tried before. Mental illnesses, including clinical depression, are also associated with suicide as risk factors. says it's a myth to believe that suicide is a result of stress alone, despite what some might think. It's also a myth to think that suicide would be a random act carried out by someone. Other risk factors to consider include substance abuse, chronic medical illnesses, a history of abuse or trauma, or a recent life tragedy.

Take their suicide threats seriously

One of the biggest mistakes to avoid when dealing with a loved one who's opened up about wanting to end their own life would be to downplay their threats. It's important to take suicide threats seriously, because they typically means someone is crying out for help. Healthline explains that we should never assume someone is talking about suicide to get attention. We should never brush off someone's suicidal threats because that invalidates their distress in a moment when they need genuine support. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints says that if you don't take someone's suicide threats seriously, their life could very well be in danger. 


Instead, you should jump into action right away by prioritizing their safety above their comfort level. If you find yourself questioning whether or not you should take a suicide threat seriously, be on the safe side by taking their threat seriously and doing what you can to achieve prevention. Too many people who are going through hard times feel scared to open up out of the fear of being judged. Ensuring that they aren't able to successfully carry out a suicide plan is simply showing how much you truly care about their health, well-being, and life.

Gather resources

It's difficult to approach a heart-wrenching situation with a friend who's contemplating suicide if you haven't gathered the necessary resources. Suicide Prevention Resource Center explains that there are tons of resources and programs to lean on in a crisis. You never have to feel like you need to save the day with your loved one completely on your own. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says that the first phone number to call in the United States is simply 911 if you think your loved one is in immediate danger. 


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is another option, made more popular thanks to a song released by Logic, Alessia Cara, and Khalid back in 2017. He named the song after the phone number in order to bring more attention and awareness. For those who don't want to talk out loud about their feelings, 988 is a text chat line for people in need. 

Former veterans who are thinking about ending their own lives can send a text to 838255 for emotional support. 1-866-488-7386 is the phone number for The Trevor Project, an organization that connects you directly with counselors who can get you through some of the hardest moments ever. If texting or talking to someone on the phone doesn't seem like the best resource for your loved one, taking them to visit a primary care doctor, a local psychiatric hospital, a walk-in clinic, an emergency department, or an urgent care center are options as well.


Offer genuine compassion

When your loved one is feeling sad and depressed, offering genuine compassion can make a huge difference. Psych Central explains that compassionate attitudes and behaviors can turn the world into a better place in a multitude of ways. Being compassionate is similar to being empathetic in the sense that these emotions can help your loved one feel heard, understood, and loved. knows that without compassion, it's incredibly difficult to manage relationships or connect with others. Offering compassion to a loved one who has been contemplating suicide helps diminish the cruelty of indifference that makes a suicidal person feel so alone in the world. 


Do your best to connect with them on a deeper level when it comes to how they're feeling. Whether you've personally had moments in your life where you were facing dark thoughts or not, being there for your loved one will remind them that they aren't as isolated as they might believe. People who have reached a low enough headspace to start considering suicide are often convinced that no one cares about them. Showing compassion helps them realize that the dark thoughts they're having aren't inherently true at all.

Make your presence known

Sometimes, all you have to do is physically be there for someone to remind them that they aren't alone. Making your presence known is extremely important when dealing with a loved one who has been talking about ending their own life. says that quality time simply refers to sharing blissful moments of value with the people you care about most in the world. Some people feel like it's difficult to snag enough quality time with their loved ones due to busy schedules and constant demand from multiple directions. A loved one who has been contemplating suicide needs to know that you are physically present, which means it's a great time to prioritize quality time above other obligations.

Advertisement explains that quality time is one of the five famous love languages written up by Gary Chapman. Relationships and friendships that don't include tons of quality time can lead to feelings of resentment, neglect, and loneliness from one or both parties involved. These feelings get even worse for someone who is already in a dark place mentally. You don't have to set up elaborate plans or spend tons of money to make your presence known. Being physically present with your loved one reminds them that you will always be there for them.

Bring them a comfort item or animal

No matter how young or old your loved one might be, providing them with a comfort item or support animal can positively impact their mindset. says there are tons of comfort items to consider including cable-knit sweaters, suede slippers, furry pillows, and fleece throw blankets. Cozy socks, plush leggings, and velvet bathrobes are a few other ideas. If your loved one has a favorite childhood stuffed animal or toy, retrieving that item for them can help them feel so much better in the midst of their negative emotions.


American Kennel Club suggests enlisting help from emotional support animals if necessary. Emotional support dogs can be any age or any breed. They help people who are dealing with emotional distress by easing anxiety and lifting the mood. There's a reason tons of college campuses bring puppy play pens around for students to enjoy during midterms and finals week. If you think your loved one would benefit from spending time with an emotionally supportive animal, such as a dog, don't hesitate to take this step.

Arrange future plans with them

One of the biggest things suicidal people have in common is the fact that they feel like their life has no meaning or purpose. They feel like they have nothing to get excited about. They believe they have nothing to look forward to. You can help a loved one who has been contemplating suicide by coming up with exciting future plans with them. Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center explains that some suicidal people have the misguided belief that ending their life would benefit their family, friends, and loved ones. 


By setting up future plans with them, you're reminding them that it's in your best interest for them to stay alive now that you have plans to look forward to with them down the line. Be the One To says that physically being there for your loved one is important, but it's also necessary to increase their "connectedness." Limiting their sense of isolation will help decrease their desire to end their own life. Setting up plans with them that will help them feel more connected to others and more excited about the future and staying alive is key.

Ground them with the 5-4-3-2-1 technique

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique can help ground your loved one in the middle of a stressful situation. If your loved one is talking to you about ending their own life in a way that feels frantic and alarming, consider walking them through the 5-4-3-2-1 coping strategy. The University of Rochester Medical Center says to start with having them point out five things they can see around them. They can point out anything in their nearby surrounding area including books, pencils, plants, car keys, and more. 


Next, they have to reach out and touch for things in arms' distance. They can touch their hair, their pillow, the ground beneath their feet, their chair, or something else. After that, they must acknowledge three things they can hear, and this can be any external or internal sound. In terms of external noises, they can point out cars driving outside, the television playing in the background, or the neighbor's dog barking. In terms of internal noises, they can point out the sound of their rumbling belly, the sound of their deep breathing, or even a sound of their own voice coming through their lips. 

Destress Monday says that your loved one needs to describe two things they can smell as the next step. If they need to walk into the kitchen to smell a couple of food items, or walk into the bathroom to smell shampoo bottle, candle, or perfume fragrances, they can do that. Last but not least, they should acknowledge one thing they can taste. Have them describe what the inside of their mouth tastes like, whether it's the last thing they ate, the tooth paste they used earlier that day, or something different.


Create a safety plan with them

Do you have a safety plan in place with your loved one in case their dark feelings start to overwhelm them? If not, now is a great time to figure that out. Healthline says safety plans should include their personal list of reasons why they should reconsider their suicidal thoughts. It should also include a list of contact information for supportive people, organizations, and groups. 


The safety plan also must also include a list of safe places to visit for peace of mind. Zero Suicide offers a safety plan template for people to fill out based on their own needs and thoughts. The template includes spaces to write down things to do to distract yourself, social settings that provide a positive distraction, and trustworthy people to contact in a moment of crisis. Your loved one might struggle to create a safety plan on their own, which means this is something you'll want to sit down with them to handle.

Alert trusted individuals to create a support system

Without making your loved ones feel like you've betrayed their trust, it's important to alert other trusted individuals who can help create a support system with you. Without enlisting help from others, you might feel like it's completely on your shoulders to prevent your loved one from ending their life. says that being able to listen to a suicidal person without judging them is key, so any other people who are included in this situation must have the same mentality. 


If you have concerns that someone might be a tad immature, impatient, or judgmental with your suicidal loved one, that person shouldn't be considered when it comes to creating a solid support system. Western Michigan University says that if the person you're dealing with is considered "high-risk" for suicide, you shouldn't leave them alone, even for a moment. Since this can feel like a lot of pressure on your shoulders, it's extremely important to have other people working together with you as a reliable support system to ensure the well-being of the at-risk person.

Alert 911

Calling 911 is not dramatic or over-the-top when you're dealing with a suicidal individual. You might feel like 911 calls should be reserved for emergencies, but if your loved one has been open with you about their suicidal thoughts, that is considered an urgent matter in and of itself. Treatment Advocacy Center says that you should follow your instincts and call 911 if your intuition is telling you that a situation is becoming dangerous. suggests calling an ambulance if you're looking for the quickest way to get help. 


During a 911 call, you should specifically ask for a mental health crisis expert who knows how to handle these types of emergencies. You should make it clear that you're calling about someone who's in the midst of a psychiatric crisis before describing their behavior with as much clear detail as possible. Explain to the 911 operator why this is a situation that you're unable to handle by yourself and finish off by explaining that you are seeking involuntary psychiatric hospital hospitalization for your loved one.