A friend posted a message online that sounds suicidal. What do you do or say?

So you see a post online. Maybe it says, “I just want to die.” Or it sounds like a goodbye note, “I love all of you and just want you to know that…..”

Or maybe it’s dripping with despair. Like one of my son’s last tweets.

my son's last tweets before his suicide

Regardless of the specific words, it’s the feeling you get when you read a certain post.

Let’s start by what you say or post

So take the ones above as examples. Here are some ways to reply. These are for friends you know.

“I care and I’d like to talk to you know. I’ll DM you for your number.”

I’m concerned about you and I want to listen. I promise. No toxic positivity!”

“I’m worried about you. Can you talk? I’ll send my number. Please call. I want to listen. I promise not to try and fix.”

“It sounds like you are really hurting right now and I want you to know I”m here for you.”

The rule is: Meet them where they are! You are not going to “fix” this but you can listen. You don’t want to post things like, “Hey bro, you got so much to live for!” or “What about your sister?”

In private, you can ask, “Are you thinking of suicide?”

If they say yes, say thing’s like, “Tell me more,” “How long have you felt this way?”

Talk with compassion. “I’m here. I’m listening. Please talk to me.”

Connect with the pain. “I’m so sorry you are hurting.”

Don’t try to fix. Focus on them and be there. Take every threat to life seriously.

Other examples

“I’m honored you trust me enough to talk to me about all this.”

“Just keep talking. I’m here. I can’t fix it but I am here and I can listen.”

Try to keep them on the phone or on the messaging system. But sometimes they don’t answer consistently. Stay calm. Stay focused. Encourage an answer. Encourage friends to find a loved one who knows where the person is and can intervene if possible.

What do you do?

If you know someone well enough, reach out to their loved ones and tell them your concerns.

Remember if you do not have the connections, the phone number, or any names of relatives, reach out to friends who you think might have them. As a group, one of you might know the person’s loved ones.

If you receive a message by phone or on any social media platform and a suicide death seems imminent, such as someone saying they have a gun, call 911 and let them know the information you do have.

What someone else does is beyond your control. All you can do is your best. Suicide can be preventable but it doesn’t mean it always is.

I’ve noticed that teens now post immediately when a friend cries out. It wasn’t always that way but people are now more aware.

Guidelines from #Chatsafe of Australia

More information from this podcast: Meet Them Where They Are At — Social Media and Suicide Prevention for Youth: Interview with Dr. Jo Robinson | Episode 96

say this not that suicide
what to say to someone thinking of suicide

USA 1-800-273-8255
USA Crisis Text 741-741
USA Crisis Line for LGBTQ Youth 1-866-488-7386
USA Crisis Text for LGBTQ Youth 678-678
USA TransLifeline 1-833-456-4566
USA Suicide Prevention Lifeline & Chat for the Deaf or Hearing impaired. Or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255
United Kingdom Samaritans 116 123
Australia Crisis Line 13 11 14
Canada Crisis Line 1-833-456-4566
Canada TransLifeline 877-330-6366
International suicide hotlines

Published by

Anne Moss Rogers

I am an emotionally naked TEDx speaker, and author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk. I raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost my younger son, Charles to substance use disorder and suicide on June 5, 2015. I help people foster a culture of connection to prevent suicide, reduce substance misuse and find life after loss. My motivational, training and workshop topics include suicide prevention, addiction, mental illness, coping strategies/resilience, and grief. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now the legacy I try and carry forward in my son's memory. Professional Speaker Website. Trained in ASIST and trainer for the evidence-based 4-hour training for everyone called safeTALK.

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