Supporting someone in a crisis

How do I support someone who is in a crisis and may be thinking about suicide?

During a mental health crisis, a person is under extreme emotional distress and may be at risk of hurting themselves or others. You may be concerned about a person’s mental state or safety. If you find yourself in this situation, take it seriously. A number of circumstances including stress, illness, social problems, life changes, trauma or violence, can trigger a crisis in someone with a mental illness.

While a person may or may not show warning signs leading up to a crisis, one of the most common signs is a sudden change in behavior.

This may include:

  • Poor personal hygiene.
  • Dramatic change in sleep habits.
  • Dramatic change in mood.
  • Not leaving the house for a long period of time.
  • No longer participating in usual activities.

If you notice any of these warning signs, try to step in as soon as possible. You may reach out to a doctor or mental health professional for help.

If the situation escalates to a crisis, do your best to remain calm. Here are some techniques that may help you to de-escalate the crisis:

  • Keep your voice calm and talk slowly.
  • Listen to the person.
  • Express support and concern. Let the person know that their life matters to you.
  • Ask how you can help.
  • Ask if they are thinking about suicide.
  • Encourage the person to seek treatment or contact their health professional.
  • Give the person space.

If the situation does not improve, seek guidance from a mental health professional.

If you or someone you know has ongoing thoughts of death or suicide, if you think someone is at immediate risk of harming themselves or others, or if a suicide attempt has been made:

  • If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1
  • Think safety first. Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • Remove anything in the area that may be harmful (e.g. guns, pills).
  • If possible, take him or her to the emergency room for urgent attention.
  • Contact a doctor or a crisis/suicide prevention hotline:
    • Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They have skilled staff and counselors available to speak with you confidentially 24/7/365.
    • Text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a crisis counselor at the Crisis Text Line from anywhere in the US. It’s free, 24/7/365, and confidential.   
    • Visit CrisisChat.org
  • If you’re outside the United States, please visit iasp.info
  • Stay with the person until help arrives