Suicide Prevention: What Do You Say to Help Save a Life? (VIDEO)

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and as always the Trevor Project is campaigning hard to raise awareness surrounding the issue of teen suicide.

Last year, they ran the Talk To Me campaign, a program that asked people to make themselves available to anyone in their lives who might be at risk. The “Talk to Me” philosophy is still very much key, but the Trevor Project has gone further to make this an actionable campaign with this year’s effort called: “Just One Note.”

Watch the video below:

This issue is somewhat personal. I have never attempted, nor have I ever wanted to take my own life.  However, suicidal thoughts have affected someone who is very dear to me. I’m not alone.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 1 million people will die every year due to suicide. That’s a ”global” mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds. Millions more will be affected by this issue.

Suicide continues to be a health issue that we struggle to talk about because it has a stigma attached to it. People often perceive suicide and suicidal thoughts as selfish and as being motivated by cowardice. This is not true. Suicide is preceded by immense emotional hurt and feelings of hopelessness where the person suffering feels their only option to relieve this pain is to end their own lives. It has nothing to do with shirking responsibility and everything to do with a person feeling so detached and remote from the people around them and the world at large, so absolutely despairing, that they feel suicide is their only choice.

What are the Signs Someone Might be Suicidal?

Signs of suicide may include:

  • Talking about suicide
  • A preoccupation with death
  • Self-loathing, self-hatred
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Withdrawing from the world
  • Self-destructive behavior

Sometimes a person may not show any of these obvious outward signs of depression or anxiety. However, changes in what you consider normal behavior for that person may be a clue.

For more possible indicators of suicidal thoughts, please click here.

How Can You Help Someone You Think Might be Suicidal?

Last year the Trevor Project also released the following fantastic video. While it specifically mentions LGB youth, it has some great advice for everyone:

For ideas of what questions you might ask someone to help ascertain if they’re suicidal, and what to say if you think they are, please click here.

While every person is different and has different needs, there are a few broad pieces of advice health professionals have given for people trying to help potentially suicidal loved ones and friends. They include:

  • Getting the person professional help. It is important that anyone who is suicidal receives the professional diagnosis and treatment that they need. Trying to ensure that the person actually follows through with treatment is paramount. Attending health appointments with the at-risk person may be one way of helping ensure they get the treatment they need.
  • Don’t wait for them to come to you for help. Suicidal thoughts are often accompanied by feelings of intense loneliness and isolation. For that reason it is unlikely that someone who is suicidal will reach out for help. If you are able to go to that person and ask them what is wrong, perhaps using some of the questions listed here, your pro-active approach could be a step in them getting the help they need.
  • Continuing support, not just in the first few weeks, but for as long as is needed. Suicidal thoughts are rarely tackled overnight. What is key is helping someone continue their treatment and supporting them over the weeks, months and even years that follow. As with many mental health issues, there is no quick fix. Offering love and support while listening to the person’s needs will go a long way in helping them as they deal with the issues underpinning their suicidal thoughts.

For further ideas about how to continue to help someone please click here.

Don’t Suffer in Silence, Get Help

For more information on National Suicide Prevention Week, please click here.

The Trevor Project runs a 24/7 helpline with trained counselors ready to listen if you or someone you know would like to talk about the issues dealt with in this post.

The Trevor Project Helpline number is 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (1-866-488-7386).Trevor Project Links:

To find a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit Befrienders Worldwide.


Further Resources:

Helping Someone in a Suicidal Crisis

Tool kit Helping someone at risk of suicide(.pdf)


Image taken from video under fair use terms, no infringement intended.


Richard T.
Richard T5 years ago

thank you!

Patricia H.
Patricia H.5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen5 years ago

Interesting, ty

Kelly Rogers
Kelly R5 years ago

Call the cops and have them put on a 5150
If it is a mental illness they need medication and a doctor.

John B.
John B5 years ago

Thanks Steve for the great article and all the good links you provided and it just dawned on me that by the time I had read the article and submitted my comment some individual in this world committed suicide. Sad indeed.

Annamarie Molloy
Anna Molloy5 years ago

Thanks very much

Ajla C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Good info.Thank you.

Erica B.
Erica B5 years ago

There are quite a few of you who have been touched by suicide, due to emotional and mental illness. I apologize for repeating myself, but I really want you all to take with you an important lesson. What to do for a person who suffers from severe chronic pain 24/7, when their illness will only get worse with age ? It isn't like the normal suicide, with clinical depression, bullying, abuse by a relative...all these things have avenues that can address their concerns, via medication, talk therapy.

The only relief for the person suffering chronic severe pain is either to give them those pain meds that the DEA and the FDA refuse to recognize as "safe" for human use,so they can finally get real pain relief! OR...get involved in a group that recognizes assisted suicide as being the last stop. For someone who is not being medically treated for the severity of pain involved, death is their only peaceful future...even thought of going to hell or going in limbo forever does not dissuade these people. Telling someone who's in severe pain that they are selfish for wanting to die is basically handing them the death weapon.

I would like to get some ideas on to handle the person in pain, what can be done to help, when the only real help (to the person who wants suicide) is a bottle of narcotics that will break the grip of pain from their body, so they can enjoy non-pain days again...that doctors REFUSE to prescribe! Let's see y'all come up with great ideas to help the chro

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago

Thanks for the article. My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones left behind of those who have had a suicide in their family or with their friends.

Jane R.
Jane R5 years ago

There are many reasons someone takes their own life, wheather a young person or an older person. For the younger person the reason is totaly different from the older person.

There is NOTHING you can say that will change their mind once it's made up. I know first hand because my husband took his life. It was not a sudden decision. He talked about it for a good while. It was due to having several surgeries and more to come. He did not want any more. He was a worry wart. Always thought negative.

My daughter and I talked to him constantly about his doing this. I tried to get him to ask his doctor for depression meds. It didn't work. He planned exactly when and where it would take place. He told my daughter about it the night before he did it. He had it planned that I would not be the one to find him. He sold our camper to someone and he was going to be at our house at a specific time. My husband went into the garage shortly before the guy was to show up, and that's where he shot himself in the head.

I had been up very late the night before and was still asleep when he did it. I did hear a bang, but thought it was just a door slaming so went right back to sleep. I didn't wake up until I heard banging on the front door. It was the police.

I knew he was depressed, but I always gave him positive things to look for. I didn't really think he'd do it.

Again, there is NOTHING you can say to prevent it!!