Recent events in our shared world have forced us to ask very important questions about who we want to be as individuals, as communities and as a society. If we are reflective, we take a moment to understand that during this time, life is asking us to slow down and see that which is directly in front of us. Life is asking us to be present for ourselves and others.
What if I told you that asking a clear, kind, empathetic question could make the difference in someone’s life? Well, it can. Truly.
At Crisis Text Line, our job is to listen with empathy, and ask the questions that matter. About 3,000 times a day, every day, we ask the same potentially life-saving question. We ask every single person who reaches out to us in pain if they are having thoughts of suicide. No matter why they reach out, we ask because we want to make sure everyone who may be thinking about ending their life has access to and receives the support they need, free of judgment or guilt.
Consistent with other suicide prevention research*, Crisis Text Line’s data suggests that asking someone in a clear, kind, empathetic way, if they are having thoughts of death or dying does not increase the risk of suicide. In fact, it demonstrates that you care and it could help someone get the support they need. And, the truth is, while we at Crisis Text Line, have this conversation with the people who reach out to us for support, you don’t have to be a mental health professional to have this conversation with the people in your life, too.
Talking about suicide may seem like a scary conversation to have. It’s not always easy, but that’s what makes it all the more important. Your bravery can help someone you love choose courage, too. Daring to break the ice on suicide with love and care can help someone who may feel shame in bringing it up themselves. You matter to them and they matter to you, and this fact alone may give you the power to make a difference in their lives.
It’s World Suicide Prevention Month, and we want you to know that it’s okay to ask about suicide. In fact, it’s pretty darn brave. It could save a life.
Here’s one way to have the conversation with your community of family and friends based on our Crisis Counselor training.
Begin with an expression of care.
Let the person know that you see them, hear them, support them and want to check in on their wellbeing.
Here are a few examples of expressions of care:
“You’ve mentioned that you’re feeling hopeless.”
“Feeling overwhelmed can be difficult to deal with.”
“I hope you know you’re not alone.”
Ask the question. Ask clearly and specifically if they are having thoughts of death or dying.
Here are a few examples of how to ask:
“I just want to check in. Have you had any thoughts of hurting or harming yourself?”
“With everything going on, have you had any thoughts of ending your life?”
“I see that you’re questioning your life right now.”
Stand with them, share a resource, and remind them that they’re not alone. No matter their response, to your question, it’s important for everyone to know that they are not alone and reaching out for help is brave. If you or someone you know is in pain, we’re here to help. Text HOME to 741741 for free, 24/7 Crisis Counseling.
Everyone has the ability to have brave conversations with kindness and care. And, we’re here to support. If you or someone you know is thinking about ending their lives, please reach out for help—you both deserve it. Text HOME to 741741 to reach a Crisis Counselor.
Gould MS, Marrocco FA, Kleinman M, et al. Evaluating iatrogenic risk of youth suicide screening programs: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2005;293(13):1635-1643. doi:10.1001/jama.293.13.1635
Eynan R, Bergmans Y, Antony J, et al. The effects of suicide ideation assessments on urges to self-harm and suicide. Crisis. 2014;35(2):123-131. doi:10.1027/0227-5910/a000233