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17 Steps For Recognizing and Responding To Warning Signs Of Suicide

You never know when your help might be needed.

Each year, close to 800,000 people around the world die by suicide, according to the World Health Organization, and for every suicide, there are many more people who attempt it.

1. Before we get started, here are the resources you should be aware of when dealing with a person who is potentially suicidal.

2. Intervening doesn't always have to be about preventing an imminent suicide attempt. It can also be about connecting with someone and keeping them from getting to a worse place.

3. You want to look at how many warning signs of suicide are present, since pretty much everyone shows one or another at some point.

4. Hopelessness about the future is an especially important warning sign to look out for, especially in young people.

5. Overall, trust your gut, because if you think something is going on, it can never hurt to reach out.

6. Once you decide that a person might need help, make sure you're the right person to reach out to them — because you might not be.

7. If you do decide to have a conversation with them, you should have a plan of action ready in case it turns out that, yes, they do need help.

8. You might have the urge to be vague or feel them out, but you should eventually ask directly about whether they're having thoughts of suicide.

9. If they say they're thinking about suicide, ask a few questions to evaluate immediate danger.

10. Stay calm and focus on asking about them, engaging them in conversation, and listening. Panicking or insisting too hard on getting help immediately can backfire.

11. Don't get too caught up in worrying about saying the wrong thing, but there are a few general rules of thumb for what not to say.

12. Do what you can to provide a sense of hope.

13. Even if it's not an immediate crisis situation, encourage them to get on the phone with a crisis hotline or text line, their therapist, etc., or ask if it's okay if you do it while they're there.

14. If they insist it's not serious enough to get in contact with a professional but you're still worried, make a mutual agreement to check in. And then make sure you do.

15. Also make a point of asking what's helping them get through right now so you know for future reference.

16. If you have a close relationship with this person, look into how you can be a part of their recovery moving forward.

17. Lastly, remember that human connection and caring about the impact you can have on those around you goes a long way.

For more information on how to fight suicide, check out the resources at American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, and Suicide Prevention Resource Center.