How to Offer Support to Someone You Believe May be Suicidal

  • Published
  • By Amy Kemp-Wellmeier
  • 908th Airlift Wing

If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that they not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for healing your loved one. You can offer support, but you can’t make a suicidal person get better. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.

Get professional help. Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help they need.  Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctor’s appointment. Below is a list of local and national support service to use to guide you to the providers you may need. 

-Amy Kemp, (908th Director of Psychological Health)                        334-953-5980

-908th Chaplin (TR)                                                                            334-953-5372

-Airman and Family Readiness                                                          334-953-9018

-Military Family Life Counselor                                                           334-559-0702

-Veterans Crisis Line                                                                          1-800-273-8255

-National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Available 24 hours).               1-800-273-8255


Follow-up on treatment. If a doctor prescribes medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as directed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. It often takes time and persistence to find the medication or therapy that’s right for a particular person.

Be proactive. Those considering suicide often don’t believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more proactive at offering assistance. Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is too vague. Don’t wait for the person to call you or even to return your calls. Drop by, call again, or invite the person out.

Encourage positive lifestyle change.  Focus on trying to have the person eat a healthy diet,  get plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.

Remove potential means of suicide. Items such as knives, razors, or firearms should be removed from the home and kept in a safe place until a provider states it is safe to return them. If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give them out only as the person needs them.

Make a safety plan. Help the person develop a set of steps they promise to follow during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the person’s doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.

Continue your support over the long haul. Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.

Take care of yourself.  Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending their own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor—to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.