What Do I Do If Someone I Know Is Struggling with Suicidal Thoughts? - Life.Church Leaders

What Do I Do If Someone I Know Is Struggling with Suicidal Thoughts?

Suicide can feel like an overwhelming and intimidating topic, but as followers of Christ, we’re called to bring God’s hope into the world. And when we follow Jesus, we can rest assured that God’s Holy Spirit is at work within us, so we can approach these conversations with the guiding wisdom and power of Christ.

If you suspect someone you care about is struggling with suicidal thoughts, what can you do? In this guide we’ll cover how to spot warning signs, assess the risk level, and take action. God can work in and through you to bring someone hope. However, connecting people to other resources and people will also be necessary. It’s important to admit you don’t have all the answers and to seek out those who have more experience.

This guide is here to help you as a leader. It will especially help you to realize when it’s time to include others and professionals. Here’s a guide you can share with people who are fighting to overcome suicidal thoughts.

If you or someone you know is in a suicidal crisis right now, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) immediately.

Watch for Warning Signs:

There are several red flags that indicate someone may be considering suicide. As you serve, look out for the following warning signs:

Other potential precursors to suicide include a history of abuse (particularly sexual abuse), lack of a strong support system, job stress, divorce, legal trouble, chronic illness, financial strain, the death of a loved one, and trigger dates (anniversaries of important events, holidays, etc.). These factors don’t necessarily cause suicide, but not being able to cope with them in a healthy way can lead someone to think that suicide is their only option to end the pain.

Assess the Risk Level:

How do we know how serious a suicide threat really is? The truth is, we can’t—so we should always take a suicide situation seriously, even if we suspect it may just be a cry for attention.

There are four factors which indicate professional intervention is needed right away:

If two or more of these factors are in place, or if the person says they are in immediate danger of committing suicide, call 911 immediately. You can also give that person the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is 1-800-273-8255.

Take Action:

In your interactions with a suicidal person, it’s important to provide a listening ear, a caring prayer, and helpful resources. Follow these steps to guide the conversation:

Ask → Notify → Listen → Pray → Resource → Follow up

  1. Ask: If you suspect someone may be suicidal but you aren’t sure, it’s all right to talk to them about your concerns. It’s a myth that this will plant the idea in their mind—in fact, they’re often hoping someone will ask, since it’s a difficult subject to bring up. You can approach this topic sensitively by saying something like, “I’m worried about you. Have you ever thought about harming yourself or taking your life?”
  2. Notify: If you think someone you lead or care about is in danger of hurting themselves, here’s how to notify the appropriate people: If they’re alone, call 911 immediately and ask if they can send someone out to them. If you’re with them, stay with them and offer to go with them to seek help from a trusted source, like your pastor, a counselor, 911, the suicide hotline, their parents if they’re under 18, etc.
  3. Listen: Encourage the person to tell you as much or as little as they’re comfortable sharing about their situation. Show empathy by repeating what they say back to them and telling them how proud you are of them for opening up to you. Keep them talking by asking clarifying questions and questions about their life. Above all, show care and loving concern for the person and the difficulties they’re facing.
  4. Pray: Let the person know God cares about them and their situation, and that you’d love to pray with them to ask for His help. Here are some suggestions of things to pray for:

5. Resource: Before ending your conversation, provide the person with some helpful resources to support them. Here are some that you can encourage them to check out:

As you provide resources, combine them with a few practical next steps and consider how you can partner with the person in achieving them. For example, when you recommend a Bible Plan, offer to go through it with them.

6. Follow Up: People in crisis situations need continual support, so it’s crucial for us to follow up with them after the initial touchpoint. Let them know that you’d love to continue the conversation, and offer to check in with them again. If possible, develop a follow-up plan so you can continue praying for the person and suggesting additional resources. Your continued support and friendship will mean more than you know.

Final Thoughts:

While our support can’t and shouldn’t ever take the place of professional help from a licensed counselor, God can certainly use you to impact a person in crisis. Cover your LifeGroup and serving time in prayer and know that your campus Life.Church team is always here to support you!