How to Help a Teen Who's Talking about Suicide

Don't write off suicidal threats as adolescent drama. A young person who is even joking about killing themselves needs your help.

You will need

  • Intervention
  • Listening skills
  • Solutions
  • Suicide hotline
  • Responsible adult
  • Emergency help

Step 1 Believe them Take them seriously. It’s a dangerous myth that people who talk about suicide don’t try it; they do. So if someone threatens to kill themselves, don’t leave them alone, even for a minute.

Step 2 Talk to them Ask them about their threats, and then listen to what they say without judgment. Just showing that you care can help them feel less alone and desperate.

Step 3 Offer solutions Offer to help them find solutions to their problems. Teens who contemplate suicide are sometimes triggered because of a specific crisis, like a romantic breakup or trouble with a parent. Help them see that there are ways out of their pain, and that you will be there to help them.

Step 4 Call the hotline Encourage them to call a suicide hotline, like the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE. If they won’t call, or if you need advice on how to handle the situation, call them yourself.

Step 5 Tell someone If you’re a teen yourself, tell a responsible adult that your friend is thinking of taking their life, even if doing so betrays their confidence. If you’re an adult, warn their parents or guardian that their child is suicidal.

Step 6 Get emergency help If there’s no time to get an adult and you believe a suicide attempt is imminent, call 911.