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How to Talk About Suicide

SHU 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 973-275-Help (4357) 
Call or text 988 to contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat online at
Or text Talk to 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line.  
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Talking About Suicide Saves Lives

Talking about suicide may feel uncomfortable, but doing so can save a life. One of the biggest myths is that asking a person if they are considering suicide will put the idea in their head or make them go through with it. However, research shows this is not the case. It actually helps and can reduce suicidal ideation. 

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline created the #BeThe1To campaign that outlines the five action steps you can take when communicating with someone who may be suicidal. 

1.    Ask 
Ask the question directly, “Are you thinking about suicide?” This lets the person know you are open to speaking about it in a supportive way, without judgment. Don’t ever promise to keep their suicidal thoughts a secret. After you ask, make sure you listen and take their answers seriously. Listen to why they are in emotional pain and help them focus on their reasons for living based on what they are telling you. 

When you respond, validate their feelings. Let them know what they are feeling is okay and that you believe them. Instead of responding with “uh huh” or “yeah,” say something like “That makes sense” or “That sounds hard.”  Also appreciate their courage by saying “Thank you for talking with me. I know that took a lot of courage.” 

2.    Be there
Being there for the person can mean physically being present or speaking with them by phone or video chat. “Being there” is a life-saving step. When a person feels more connected to others and less isolated, it protects against suicide. If someone feels they don’t belong, perceives themselves as a burden and has access to lethal means, their risk for suicide greatly increases. When you are there for them, you can help eliminate some of the risk factors. 

3.    Keep them safe
Once you have asked and determined suicide is being considered, it’s important to ask a few more questions to find out if they are in immediate danger and determine what you need to do next to keep them safe. 

  • Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? 
  • Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? 
  • Do they have a specific, detailed plan? 
  • What’s the timing for their plan? 
  • What sort of access do they have to their planned method?

Once you know these answers, you can determine how to keep them safe. If you feel they are in immediate danger, call 911 immediately. The goal of this step is to remove danger. Restrict their access to any weapons, pills, or other lethal means. Stay with them to ensure they don’t act on any impulses. 

4.    Help them connect
Remember, connection is a key factor to suicide prevention. Let them know they are never alone and they can connect with someone 24/7. 
Call or text 988, 
Chat online with 988
Text SCHOOL to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line 
Contact the SHU 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 973-275-Help (4357)

In addition to these resources, make them aware of all of the resources available on and off-campus. Offer to take them to CAPS or help them look up local support groups in the community. When they are not in crisis, help them create a safety plan and let them know they can contact you if they are feeling unsafe again (as long as you know you can commit to being there for them). You can also review this app.

5.    Follow Up
Within one to two days after you initially spoke with the person, follow up. Call, send a text or email, or stop by to simply check in and see how they are doing. This doesn’t have to be formal; it’s just a way to show you care for them and reinforce connection. Reaching out lets them know you are thinking about them and can reduce risk for suicide. If you feel they are still in danger, you can intervene again if necessary. 


Call 973-761-9500
If you’re not feeling your best despite your self-help efforts, it’s time to reach out for support. You can contact CAPS during regular office hours=, Monday-Friday 8:45 a.m.- 4:45 p.m. or drop-in to CAPS in Mooney Hall Room 27 to speak with an on-call counselor.

Crisis Hotline

Call 973-275-HELP
Students with an urgent need to speak with a counselor may also choose to contact the SHU 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Hotline at 973-275-Help (4357). This service is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

In an Emergency

Call 911
If you or a friend are having serious thoughts of killing yourself or hurting someone else go to the nearest Emergency Room or call 911.

Great Minds Dare to Care logo. Great Minds Dare to Care is a University-wide collaborative suicide prevention initiative designed to foster shared responsibility for building a community of care at Seton Hall University. 
Visit the Great Minds Dare to Care website.