Talking about Suicide with Someone

Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide can be difficult. Let's see how to broach the question and what to do depending on the answer received.

Keep in mind that if you need help dealing with the situation, you can contact a counsellor at any time.

How to find out if someone is thinking about suicide

In order to find out if a person is thinking about suicide, you must ask them directly and in the present tense. Discussing suicide openly will not cause them to have suicidal thoughts. And if the person is thinking about suicide, telling someone may come as a relief. 

Here are some examples of ways to ask the question:

  • Are you thinking about suicide?

  • Are you considering ending your life?

  • Are you thinking about hurting yourself?

  • Are you planning to take your own life?

How to start a conversation about suicide

Starting a conversation about suicide can be tough. If you’re worried about someone, it’s important to encourage them to talk, and to take the time to listen. Here are some tips for getting the conversation started.

How to determine if a person is in danger

Suicidal thoughts should always be taken seriously. But having suicidal thoughts doesn’t necessarily mean a person is in danger.

You can try to find out how urgent the situation is by asking if they have a plan:​

  • How they want to take their own life

  • Where they want to do it

  • When they plan to do it

This information can help you decide if you need to call emergency services. The more detailed the plan, the more accessible the means, and the sooner the person intends to act, the faster you need to intervene.

When to call 911

Here are some situations in which you should call emergency services (911).

The person has attempted suicide or is about to do so.
The person says they may take their own life in the next few minutes or hours.
The person is currently in a life-threatening crisis.
The person ends the conversation by saying they are going to take their own life.
The person is threatening to put the lives of others in danger.
The person says they hear voices telling them to take their own life or kill another person.

When to seek help

Assessing the risk of suicide is complex. In order to properly assess the danger, it’s important to contact a trained counsellor.

To contact a trained counsellor, you can:

To do so, you can: 

  • Offer to stay with the person while they contact one of these resources

  • Contact one of these resources yourself after talking with the person

What to do if the person says they aren’t thinking about suicide

When we ask someone whether they’re thinking about suicide, it’s usually because they’re in a difficult situation or showing signs of distress or despair.

If the person says they’re not thinking about suicide, it’s a good opportunity to listen to them and let them know they can always talk to you if they have suicidal thoughts in the future.