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How to Help

We all have a role to play in preventing suicide. Have you ever heard someone talk about wanting to take their own life? When someone talks about suicide, it can be challenging to know what to do, what to say, or how to help. At Southwest Health, we believe in ‘zero suicide’, and we all play a role in helping because one life lost is too many.

So how can you help?

Ask. Remember that asking if someone is having thoughts of suicide will not give them the idea. How you ask the question is less important than if you ask it. Here are some ways to ask if someone is suicidal:

  • “Are you thinking about suicide?”
  • “Have you ever thought about suicide or tried to harm yourself before?”
  • “Do you have a plan for suicide?”

Provide Support. When someone is sharing their story, be there to listen. Be respectful, offer empathy and hope, and listen. Don’t be judgmental, dismissive of their thoughts, or try to give them advice.

Here’s how you can support and show empathy:

  • “I am so sorry you are going through this.”
  • “You are in a lot of pain right now.”
  • “You mean so much to me. I can’t imagine my life without you.”

Keep Them Safe. Discuss with the person ways to increase their safety by reducing access to lethal means. For example, this might be identifying a plan to remove firearms or medications from their home. Ask if they have a plan for suicide. If the person is actively suicidal and has a plan, never leave them alone.

Help Them Connect. Identify any positive connections or sources of support. This might include a therapist or counselor, spiritual advisor, parent, teacher, spouse, or other support person. Help them get in contact. If they are actively suicidal, encourage them to seek immediate help. This could mean going to the Emergency Room with them or calling 911.

Follow Up. Check-in often to see how they are doing. Give them a call or a simple text. This type of contact can increase feelings of connectedness and show your ongoing support.

Remember, you are never alone. There are local resources available and people you can reach out to if you or someone you know is suicidal. Southwest Health is committed to the Zero Suicide initiative to prevent suicide and save lives.

There are resources and helplines you or a loved one can call to get instant help.

Iowa and Grant County 24-hour crisis number: 1-800-362-5717
Lafayette County 24-hour crisis number: 1-800-552-6642
National Suicide Hotline: Call or text 988 or text HELLO to 741741. Both services provide 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.