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Helping Suicidal Youth

It is important to respond appropriately and use appropriate language. Here is some helpful information about what to do and what not to do.

How to Help

What is Helpful:

  • Show you care Listen carefully, and be genuine. Use words such as: "I'm concerned about you...about how you feel."
  • Ask the question Be direct, caring and nonconfrontational. Use words such as: "Are you thinking about suicide?"
  • Get Help Do not leave him/her alone. Use words such as: "You are not alone. I will help you get the help you need."

When working with someone who might be suicidal, avoid:

  • Ignoring or dismissing the issue. This sends the message that you don't hear their message, don't believe them, or you don't care about their pain.
  • Acting shocked or embarrassed.
  • Panicking, preaching, or patronizing.
  • Challenging, debating, or bargaining. Never challenge a suicidal person. You can not win in a power struggle with someone who is thinking irrationally.
  • Giving harmful advice, such as suggesting the use of drugs or alcohol to "feel better." There is a very strong association between alcohol use and suicide.
  • Promising to keep a secret. The suicidal person is sharing his/her feelings hoping that someone will recognize the pain and help, even though they may verbally contradict this.

Compiled from: Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Guidelines.