How to Tell Someone You Are Thinking About Suicide
By Katie Hurley, LCSW
Telling someone you are having thoughts about suicide is a brave act, and it can be difficult to do. Sharing your feelings is important, though, because it is the first step toward finding help. If you are feeling suicidal, you are likely feeling hopeless or helpless. Connecting with someone and sharing your feelings can help you feel supported and give you hope. It can be a huge relief to share your feelings, because it means you no longer have to struggle alone.
This guide will walk you through how to talk with someone about your suicidal thoughts.
There are people ready to help you at any time of day.
- Text HOME to 741-741 for a free, confidential conversation with a trained counselor any time of day.
- If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, text or call 988 or use the chat function at 988lifeline.org.
- If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.
1. Decide who in your life you want to tell.
You may choose a close friend or a parent or other adult in your life you trust, such as a relative, teacher, professor, coach, therapist, or school or campus counselor. Think about a person in your life who is a good listener, shows empathy and compassion, and thinks before they react.
2. Reach out in a way that feels comfortable.
It may be easier to send a text first to tell your trusted person you need to talk about something important. Try this: “I have something important to tell you. I’m hoping we can talk alone soon.” A simple text like this communicates the importance of the conversation so your helper knows to set aside distraction-free time to focus on you.
People who support you are best able to help if you can use words (see phrases you can use below) rather than actions to tell them how you feel. It’s also helpful to meet in a private space where they can focus on you without distractions.
3. Be prepared for a few different responses.
When you tell someone how you’re feeling, they may not know exactly how to respond and may have follow up questions. Think about how you will answer these questions:
- How long have you felt this way?
- How often do you have these thoughts?
- Are you worried you may do something soon to harm yourself?
- Do you have a plan for how you would do it?
- What do you need to do to feel safe?
These questions may sound scary or overwhelming, but honest answers will help the person who is helping you know what to do.
Hopefully your person will take you seriously right away. But, if you aren’t feeling heard, you could say something like, “I really need you to hear me and help me. I am scared, and I need you.” If your chosen person does not help you, keep reaching out until someone does.
If you are having suicidal thoughts but you’re not worried about harming yourself right away, be clear about that. The person who is helping you may not be sure if they need to reach out for more help or bring you to an emergency room, and letting them know that you are safe for the moment (if you are) is important.
4. Be clear about what you are feeling.
You don’t need to soften it for your support person. You chose them because you trust them to listen and help.
It is OK, however, to start by sharing how you’re feeling about having this conversation. You could start with something like this: “I’m feeling anxious to tell you this, but I really need to get it out. It might take me a minute to find the right words.”
Pausing here actually gives you a chance to process and think through what you want to say next. Focus on your feelings and thoughts. Here are some phrases you could try:
“For the past [insert length of time], I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed/depressed/hopeless and having thoughts of suicide.”
“I think about dying [insert how often], and I’ve been experiencing other changes in my moods, like [insert changes].”
“I have been feeling [insert emotions] and [insert the things that trigger these feelings] seem to make it worse.”
“I want to talk to a therapist/doctor to help me through this. Will you help me find one?”
“When I’m feeling this way, I need [insert things this person can do, such as listen, help you call a crisis line, or be with you].”
5. Ask them to help you call one of the resources above.
You can also ask them to take you to the nearest emergency room if you feel you are at immediate risk of hurting yourself.
6. Create a safety plan together if you currently feel safe.
Now that you have someone to support you, you can create a safety plan together. A safety plan includes a list of resources you can access when you have suicidal thoughts, but it can also include affirmations, instructions for how to reframe your thinking, and a short list of things that give you hope on good days.
A safety plan can be stored in your phone to share with someone you trust when you have suicidal feelings. It can feel overwhelming to share these feelings as they’re happening, but showing your safety plan to someone who can help is a good way to get immediate support and help.
The most important thing to know is that there is help and hope available. It may feel scary to say “suicide” out loud, but, when you do, you will discover you are no longer alone and you can find your way forward to feeling better.
Other places to find support:
- Teen Line, an anonymous, nonjudgmental space for youth. Call 800-852-8336: From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. PST each night. You can also text TEEN to 839-863.
- The Trevor Project, which specializes in supporting LGBTQ youth. Text START to 678-678 or call 866-488-7386.
- Trans Lifeline: Call 1-877-565-8860
- Asian LifeNet Hotline: 1-877-990-8585