*Content Warning: Post contains discussion of suicide, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts*


Crisis Services Canada
24/7 Phone Line: 1-833-456-4566
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Mental Health Support line: 310-6789

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 833-456-4566 

BC Suicide Line: 1-800-784-2433

UVic SupportConnect: 1- 844-773 -1427

It can be scary when a friend or loved one is having thoughts of suicide, and it can be hard seeing them go through a tough time in their lives. There are many different reasons why someone may consider ending their life, and regardless of their motivation, it can be intimidating to know how to approach the situation. When you suspect that someone you know might be considering suicide, the first thing to look out for is the warning signs.

Warning signs

These are a few warning signs to look out for when you think someone may be at risk of suicide:

  • Changes in behaviour and mood
  • Feeling worthless, helpless, or hopeless
  • Giving away possessions
  • Talking about, or threating to harm oneself
  • Increased substance use
  • Sleeping too much, or not enough
  • Withdrawal from others and society

Ask directly about suicide

While it could feel like asking someone about suicide could ‘put the idea in their head’, this is not the case. Being open about the topic of suicide can provide a safe space to have conversations about the thoughts and feelings the person may be experiencing while considering ending their life.

Here are some ways to ask clearly and directly about suicide:

‘I’ve noticed you’ve been feeling hopeless and have been in a really dark place recently. Are you considering suicide?’

‘I can see that you’ve been feeling quite down recently. Are you thinking about killing yourself?’

Listen without judgement

People who are having thoughts of suicide need to be heard and not judged for the thoughts and feelings they are experiencing. When someone tells you they are feeling suicidal, your first thought may to be to jump to solutions, however, it is more important to let them know you are there to support them and give them a space to talk about how they are feeling.

These are some ways to validate their feelings and help them feel heard:

  • Empathize with them, and imagine how it may feel to be in their position
  • Avoid criticizing or blaming them for feeling this way
  • Show you are listening by repeating what they say back to them in your own words
  • Let them know you care about them, and that they aren’t alone

Keeping them and yourself safe

Once they have expressed how they are feeling, you can work together to come with a plan to keep them safe. Based off the information you’ve received, you can talk about what they need to feel safe from suicide.

Some safety planning may include:

  • Having them commit to call a crisis line or reach out to other services in the future
  • Removing the specific means of suicide
  • Staying with them for awhile
  • Helping them explore reasons to live

It is also important to check in with yourself while you are supporting someone who is thinking about suicide. To offer your best support to someone else, it is also essential that you look after your own needs. While it may seem intimidating to talk about suicide, having open conversations about suicide is an important step in validating suicidal feelings, and reducing the stigma.

The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.