Do’s and Don’ts

Sad teenIf you think someone is suicidal, there are some basic do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

  • Do talk openly.
  • Do try to instill hope.
    • Reassure them that help is available.
  • Do encourage expression of feelings.
  • Do listen without passing judgment.
  • Do make empathic statements.
    • This is empathy: “It must be awful to be feeling the way you do. Tell me more.”
    • This is not empathy: “I know exactly how you feel.”
  • Do stay calm, relaxed, rational.
  • Do know how to access resources.
  • Don’t make moral judgments.
    • Telling someone that suicide is a sin won’t help.
  • Don’t argue or lecture.
  • Don’t encourage guilt.
    • “Think of how your mom would feel” won’t help
  • Don’t promise total confidentiality, or offer reassurances that may not be true.
    • You may be asked to promise that you won’t tell anyone. The best response is that because you care about the person, you’re unwilling to make that promise – that you’re taking him/her seriously and that you want to get them help.
  • Don’t offer empty reassurances.
    • “You’re luckier than most people” won’t help
  • Don’t minimize the problem or offer simplistic solutions
    • “You just need a good night’s sleep” won’t help.
  • Don’t “dare” the suicidal person or try reverse psychology
  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Don’t go it alone.