If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, it’s essential to know how to respond. Your support and quick action could have life-saving impact.

Here are 10 tips to help you navigate the moment.

1. Stay Calm

Don’t panic if someone tells you they have had or are having suicidal thoughts. You may be afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, but you don’t have to have all the answers to be supportive.

Take time to understand the situation. Ask direct questions, and stay calm and steady.

2. Take Them Seriously

If someone tells you they’re feeling suicidal or they’ve been dealing with suicidal thoughts, believe them. Don't invalidate their feelings. When we dismiss the conversation, we increase feelings of shame and discourage people from seeking help.

3. Actively Listen

Encourage the person to talk about what they’re going through. Show you are listening, and don’t interrupt. Don’t tell them what to do or second guess their feelings. Sometimes, just talking things through or feeling connected can provide relief.

4. Read Between the Lines

Sometimes the language people use isn’t very clear or direct. Someone experiencing suicidal thoughts may not use the word “suicide” when talking about their feelings or urges. They may say things such as, “I just want to go to sleep and not wake up,” or “I don’t see a reason to keep going.” If you hear language that alludes to escape, loss of purpose, or ending pain, start asking direct questions:

  • Are you thinking about suicide or doing something to hurt yourself?

  • Do you have a plan?

  • Are you thinking of suicide in the next day or so?

  • Are you afraid to be alone right now?

  • How strong is the urge?

  • What is the best thing I could do to help?

If the person is not at immediate risk, engage them in conversation and offer to help them find resources. Even if you don’t know where to find help, you can offer to help them figure out the next step.

5. Bring It Up If They Don’t

If you’re speaking with a loved one who is having feelings of depression, despair, or self-hate and they’re struggling to see a positive path forward, check in on them–and directly ask them about their suicidal thoughts. You may be afraid that by talking about suicide, you’ll put the idea in that person’s head. But research has shown the opposite is true: Having an open dialogue about suicide can keep your loved ones safe.

6. Call for Help in a Crisis

If someone is clearly saying they want to die or they have a plan, timeline, and means to make a suicide attempt, call for emergency help or take them to the nearest emergency room. People with plans are at high risk of acting on them. Don’t panic, but don’t try to handle it alone.

The national mental health hotline can be reached 24/7 at 988. This mental health hotline is staffed by counselors who are trained to de-escalate mental health crises without emergency intervention. The crisis line offers tailored support to veterans and service members (dial 988 and press 1.) Keep in mind, if the caller won’t collaborate on creating a safety plan or the counselor feels the person is in immediate danger, they will call 911. In rural or suburban areas, the 911 responder may be police, and the person could be taken to a hospital involuntarily.

7. Contact Stop Soldier Suicide

If the person is a veteran or service member but is not at immediate risk, reach out to (or have them reach out to) ROGER, the wellness service of Stop Soldier Suicide, to be connected with mental health services.


Our ROGER program offers suicide prevention resources, virtual mental health counseling, and safety planning 100% free to U.S. veterans and service members.

8. Remove Means of Self-Harm

Remember, safety is the main goal.

If the person is in crisis, remove means of self-harm (including weapons, alcohol, poisons, and medications). Time in crisis can be brief; by adding additional barriers to access, you can help create some important time and space between thought and action.

For most people who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, if they don’t have ready access to their planned method of suicide, they do not seek out other lethal means to attempt suicide.

Ask if they have a firearm and if you can either remove it, lock it, or store it elsewhere to keep them safe in a crisis. Firearms are one of the leading causes of veteran suicide; nationwide, 71 percent of veterans who die by suicide use a firearm.

If they are not at immediate risk, discuss firearm safety and gun locks. Learn more on our Veteran Firearm Safety page.

9. Stay Put and Follow Up

Stay connected to them while you (or they) contact the next level of support. Don’t leave them alone. If you can’t stay with them, ask if there is a friend or loved one who can come stay with them.

10. Safety Plan

Help the person make a safety plan for how to get help if they feel they’re in crisis. They should jot down a list of warning signs so they know when they need to reach out for help, coping strategies, people they can call for support, and the phone numbers of crisis services or mental health providers they trust.

For more tips, read “Yes, You Should Say Suicide Out Loud” and “How to Talk About Suicide.”

Are you concerned about a service member or veteran? Ask them how they are doing, ask directly if they are having thoughts of suicide, and offer your support. We welcome U.S. veterans and service members as well as concerned loved ones to use our Get Help form to get connected to support. Stop Soldier Suicide offers suicide prevention, virtual mental health counseling, and safety planning 100% free to U.S. veterans and service members.