When we REACH to those in need, we:
REACH out and ask, “How are you…really?” Listen and offer hope.
Ask the person directly about their feelings, even though you may feel awkward. There is no perfect thing to say. This is difficult for all of us.
- Listen to what the person has to say and take it seriously. Just talking to someone who really cares can make a big difference to a person who feels hopeless.
- A suicidal or severely depressed person may not have the energy or motivation to find help. If the person doesn't feel able to consult a doctor or mental health professional, you can offer to help find a provider and/or explore other options for care and support such as a crisis center, a support group, someone from the individual’s faith community or another trusted person.
- You can offer support and share what has helped you — but remember you are not a mental health professional and it is important to bring in additional resources and support if it becomes clear that the individual is considering self-harm. You can always contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273 – 8255 (Press 1 if you are a Veteran, Service member or family member) to speak with someone who can provide you with guidance.
ENGAGE them about possible risk factors and changes in their life to better understand their pain.
Talk to them about challenges and struggles they are currently experiencing or have experienced in their lives. Possible risk factors to listen for include:
- Prior suicide attempts
- Chronic health concerns
- Chronic pain
- A history of mental illness
- Substance use and misuse challenges
- Access to lethal means
- Overall sense of hopelessness
- Legal or financial challenges
- Relationship difficulties
- Prior trauma
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Having a family member who died by suicide
- Sleep problems (whether too much or too little)
- Recent loss such as the death of a loved one, divorce or loss of job
- Poor quality of life or other social determinants of health (such as housing insecurity, food insecurity, lack of support systems, discrimination, social stress, and lack of access to health care)
Listen and provide support. Offer hope and your willingness to help them find solutions that work for them.
ATTEND to their safety. Unless you are concerned about your safety, stay with them.
Ask directly if the person is having thoughts of suicide and if the individual has a plan, a date, and/or a time.
- Do not leave the individual alone, particularly if he or she has a plan and the means for suicide. Get professional help. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273 – 8255 (Press 1 if you are a Veteran, Service member or family member) immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely and the individual is willing, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Encourage the individual to safely store any possible means for suicide with someone they trust. Remove items such as knives, razors, firearms, and medications.
- If the person takes a medication that could be used for overdose, develop a plan to have someone safeguard the medication and give it as prescribed.
- If the person has a firearm, it may be unsafe for you to intervene directly. If you are worried about your safety, call 911 or your local emergency number. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to seek guidance at (800) 273–8255 (Press 1 if you are a Veteran, Service member or family member).
CONNECT them to resources such as supportive friends and family, professionals or a crisis line.
Encourage the individual to reach out to their network of support – provide your help and support if they are unable to do this on their own. This network may include mental health professionals, coworkers, neighbors, members of their community, friends, family, and faith-based leaders. Connect the individual to others that may have been involved or assisted in the past.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1 if you are a Veteran, Service member, or family member). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free resource that’s available to anyone. Alternately, text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7.
- When you are helping others, you also need to have support for yourself. Please take care of yourself. In order to provide the ongoing support that a love one may need, you need to ensure you are getting support from others as well.
- Trained professionals can provide guidance, resources, and assistance to you, and/or the individual who may be in crisis.
HELP them make and maintain a plan to stay safe. Encourage them to share it with others.
Be part of the plan to provide a network of support and safety. This may include working with mental health professionals that the individual currently sees – or those professionals who assess the individual during the crisis – to create a safety plan. This could also include engaging friends and family in conversations, offering support, and assisting the individual to connect to the appropriate resources.
Be direct and look for warning signs. Examples of warning signs and what you can do include:
Contact a mental health or healthcare professional – or 911 – immediately if the individual exhibits these signs:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Extreme mood swings and remaining agitated and/or unable to calm themselves or sleep
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable emotional/mental pain
- Exploring ways to kill themselves. For example, searching online for methods or buying a gun
- Exhibiting extreme anger or rage. Being destructive, violent and/or reckless
- Talking about seeking revenge
- Talking about having no reason to live
- Engaging in dangerous behavior
- Expressing that the world would be better off without them and/or giving their possessions away
Offer support and help connect the individual to specific mental health resources (some of which can be found at REACH.gov) if the individual exhibits one or more of the following:
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Referring to themselves as a burden to others
- Seeming restless, having difficulty soothing themselves
- Frequently tearful and/or sad
- No appetite
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Failure to attend to basic personal hygiene
- Unable to engage in typical activities or responsibilities – work, school or family obligations