How to Start the Conversation About Suicidal Thoughts

Starting a conversation about suicidal thoughts can be difficult, but it's an important conversation to have. Suicide is a leading cause of death worldwide and talking about it is a crucial step in preventing it. If you're concerned that someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, here are some tips on how to start the conversation:

1. Choose the right time and place

It's important to create a safe and private space where the person can feel comfortable discussing their feelings. Choose a time when you both have enough time to talk without interruptions and find a quiet place where you can speak openly and honestly. Be mindful of the environment and make sure you won't be overheard.

2. Be direct and honest

When starting the conversation, be direct and honest about your concerns. Let the person know that you're worried about them and that you're there to listen and support them. Encourage them to share their feelings and assure them that they're not alone. Use statements like, "I noticed you've been feeling down lately; I want to make sure you're okay", or "I'm worried about you and want to help in any way I can".

3. Listen with empathy

When the person talks, listen with empathy and understanding. Try to put yourself in their shoes and avoid judging or dismissing their feelings. Encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings freely without fear of criticism or rejection. Show your support and compassion through your body language and verbal responses. Let them know that their feelings are valid and that you're there to help them.

4. Assess the level of risk

Assessing the level of risk is important to determine the urgency and type of help the person may need. Ask direct questions to better understand their thoughts, such as "Have you had any thoughts of suicide?", "Do you have a plan?", or "Do you have access to any means of harm?". If the person expresses suicidal ideation or has made a plan, seek emergency help immediately. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for assistance.

5. Offer support and resources

After the conversation, offer the person your support and share resources that can help them. Encourage them to seek professional help, such as therapy or counseling, and provide them with local resources and hotlines they can contact. Show them that you care and that you'll be there for them throughout their journey to recovery.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)


Starting a conversation about suicidal thoughts can be difficult, but it's an important step in preventing suicide. Choose the right time and place, be direct and honest, listen with empathy, assess the level of risk, and offer support and resources. Remember, your words and actions can make a difference in someone's life.