Suicide Prevention: How to support a loved one living with mental illness

Teen comforting hes sad friend in the night sitting on a couch in the living room at home
Teen comforting hes sad friend in the night sitting on a couch in the living room at home

If you’re reading this and struggling with suicidal thoughts, the National Suicidal Prevention Lifeline is available to you 24/7. It’s free and confidential: 1-800-273-8255.

It’s scary to think that one of your loved ones might be struggling with mental illness, it’s important to know what you can do to help prevent a loved one from committing suicide. If you believe you or a family member is currently at risk of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a 5 step process to help:

Talk To Them

Speak directly to them about whether they are thinking about suicide. Ask them about how you can help, and listen to why they might be thinking about suicide. Pay close attention to why they want to continue to stay alive and keep them focused on those reasons.

Keep Them Safe

Studies have shown that if you can reduce a person’s access to methods of committing suicide, you can reduce their risk. Talk to them about whether they have thought about a specific way or time frame to commit suicide, then work to remove those methods and push out the time. The important thing is supporting the person by putting time and distance between them and their method.

Be There For Them

Work to be present for them, whether that is on the phone or in person, to help fight their feelings of isolation. Talk to them about others who can also be an effective source for help, but make absolutely sure they are both willing and appropriate. 

Help Them Connect

Make sure they are connected to resources and people who can help them. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great resource, but your community will likely have organizations as well. Helping them see a mental health professional can make a significant difference in feeling depressed and overwhelmed.

Follow Up

Make time to check-in, and see how they’re doing. Consistent communication is an important safeguard to keep them from rebounding after receiving treatment and help. Supportive ongoing contact may be an important part of suicide prevention.