Get Help For Someone Else

What You Can Do to Help a Friend or Family Member Who is Struggling

The most important thing you can do to help a person, who is struggling, is to be his or her friend – a friend who will sit with them … a friend who will try to understand their situation.  When a person is willing to sit with us and listen, when a person is willing to hear what we have to say without judging us or trying to “make it all better”, when a person is willing to be our friend, it is very comforting and can help us find positive solutions to our problems.

You can help by being a friend … by listening to him/her, encouraging him/her, supporting him/her, and encouraging him or her to get professional help.

You Can Help Someone by Remembering ALES

  • Ask - ask what is going on in the person’s life;  ask if he or she is thinking of suicide;  ask if he or she has a plan to take his/her life.
  • Listen – listen, ask clarifying questions, try to understand what the person is experiencing.
  • Encourage – encourage the person to get help – let him or her know it is ok to seek professional help.
  • Support – follow-up with the person periodically to let him/her know you are interested and care.

Some Important Do's and Don'ts


  • Do take all suicide threats seriously!
  • Do talk candidly about suicide … ask if your friend/loved one is thinking of suicide.
  • Do ask about the person’s plan to end their life and ask if they have the means available to take their life.
  • Do keep the person safe … remove or disable firearms, keep medications in a secure place. Stay with a person if you think he/she may act on their suicidal thoughts.
  • Do let the person know you are concerned about them and want to ensure his or her safety.
  • Do encourage him or her to get professional help – offer to take him or her to the emergency room or to a professional counselor.


  • Don’t ignore statements like “I wish I was dead”, “I can’t go on”, “life is just too hard” … these statements indicate a person may be thinking of suicide.
  • Don’t think that a person, who talks about suicide, will not attempt suicide. Most people, who take their life, have communicated their intent to do so to others.
  • Don’t dismiss the person with remarks like “oh, everything will be all right” … “things will get better; you’ll see” … “oh, don’t talk like that – you don’t want to die”. These comments tend to be conversation stoppers.
  • Don’t keep someone’s suicidal thoughts a secret – tell the person’s family members of your concern for him or her. Youth, tell an adult (a parent, teacher, coach) that a friend is threatening suicide.

Know the Warning Signs That a Person May be Thinking of Suicide

While some people use words to tell others they are depressed or struggling, others may not share their feelings as openly.  Pay attention to these signs that a person may be depressed and possibly considering suicide.  If you see these signs, ask the person what is going on in his/her life and ask about suicidal thoughts.

Warning Signs...

  • Withdrawing from activities he/she used to enjoy; withdrawing from friends/family.
  • Unexplained weight loss or changes in eating habits.
  • Difficulties with sleep – difficulty falling asleep, awaking early and unable to return to sleep, sleeping all of the time.
  • Moodiness, irritability, agitation.
  • Appearing sad, empty, low in energy, hopeless.
  • Crying for no apparent reason.
  • Difficulties doing tasks because he/she seems preoccupied.
  • Talking about being a burden to others or talking about feeling guilty or ashamed.
  • Increased use of drugs/alcohol.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill himself/herself.
  • Putting his/her life in order or giving away prized possessions.
  • Saying good-bye to family/friends.