Health & Wellness

How to Help a Person at Risk for Suicide

By on 09/11/2018
suicide prevention

Angela Cantwell, RN, MSN

Angela Cantwell, RN, MSN, Clinical Director of Nursing, Einstein Behavioral Health, offers this information for Suicide Prevention Week:

Suicide is a desperate act to escape what is perceived by the person as unbearable suffering. People are blinded by their feelings and don’t see a solution other than death to escape their pain. Often, they are conflicted about ending their life but aren’t able to see alternatives. Help is available.

Where to Go for Help

  • Einstein Crisis Response Center (CRC) is available 24/7 for emergency access to psychiatric & behavioral healthcare. Call 215-951-8300.
  • Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services offers 24/7 suicide crisis and intervention. Call 215-686-4420.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers help 24/7. Help is available 24/7. Call 1-800-273-8255.  

 Warning Signs of Suicide 

Talking about suicide is a cry for help. Be alert to the following:

  • A person saying “I’d be better off dead” or “things will never get better.”
  • A person buying a gun, stockpiling medications, or researching ways to kill himself.
  • A person preoccupied with death (watches shows or videos about it).
  • A person isolates him/herself from family and friends.

How to Help Someone Who May Be Suicidal

  • TALK to the person. Don’t be afraid that you’ll say something wrong. Be supportive and non-confrontational, but be direct. Start the conversation: “I’ve noticed that you don’t seem quite yourself lately, let’s talk about it.”
  • OFFER SUPPORT. Letting someone know that they are not alone can prevent a suicide.
  • LISTEN to the person and allow them to get things off their chest. Be patient, calm and accept the person’s feelings without judgment.
  • Offer HOPE and reassure the person that help is available. Let the person know they are important to you and others. Reassure them that their feelings may change. Give them phone numbers to the nearest Crisis Response Center (CRC), which are open 24/7.
  • ASK DIRECTLY. Ask the person specifically if they are thinking about harming themselves.
  • RESPOND QUICKLY. Ask if the person has a plan. Call 911 immediately or bring the person to a CRC if they express thoughts of wanting to hurt themselves.
  • REMOVE ANY MEANS. Secure weapons, remove medications, lock up sharp objects, and most importantly, DO NOT LEAVE THE PERSON ALONE.


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