Ways You Can Help a Family Member with Suicidal Thoughts

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

Is a loved one struggling with a mental illness and you’re afraid they’re considering taking their own lives? Here are some ways you can help them. 

Be Direct, But Kind. 

Many people fear that bringing up suicide can disturb someone experiencing suicidal thoughts. In fact, the opposite is true. Experts in suicide prevention actually recommend asking your troubled loved one about their mental state in a direct, but compassionate way. If you know someone is depressed or struggling with a disorder like schizophrenia, it’s ok to let them know you are worried about them. Some people may seem offended or withdraw from the conversation if you ask about suicide directly, but be patient with them. Reassure them that you love them no matter what, and keep talking with them.

Take Steps Toward Safety

There are several steps you can take to be proactive when you know a family member is considering suicide. The very first step is to get help from professionals who are trained for these situations. A therapist or psychologist can help your loved one start on a path of healing. Depending on where you live, there may be resources available to you to help with the cost of the services.  If you don’t know where to start to find a licensed professional, there are several free resources listed at the bottom of this article that you can call. 

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has a great step-by-step list of actions you can take to ensure your family member’s safety in times of crisis. Though some items are specific to the Canadian healthcare system, it is a useful resource.

Take Care Of Yourself, Too. 

While someone is battling suicidal thoughts, their family members often feel like they aren’t doing enough to help. Just remember: their mental illness is not your fault. Mental illness is caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals. Sometimes these conditions are genetic or triggered by life events. They can even happen for no specific reason at all. It’s best to focus your energy on how you can help your loved one in their struggle. 

Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too!  Make sure you are doing things to keep yourself healthy while you are on this journey with your family member. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, and take time to yourself so you can refuel emotionally. Seek support from others in the same situation and from licensed professionals. 

You are not alone!

If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, there are resources available to help. Seek counsel from the hotline and websites listed below.

Suicide Prevention Resources

National Suicidal Prevention Lifeline : 1-800-273-8255

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness 

Mental Health Australia 

Befrienders Worldwide – International Mental Health Support