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4 Ways to Help Your Friends or Family Struggling with Suicide

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, we want to help destigmatize the conversation, raise awareness, and provide practical ways to support the millions of individuals affected by depression and suicide.  

Unfortunately, suicide is often treated like a taboo, or even off-limits topic. However, if you or someone you love struggles with suicidality, you understand the importance of creating safe spaces to talk about it.   

Recently our team sat down with Onsite’s Lead Clinician, Carlos Martinez for an honest conversation about suicide. During this conversation, Carlos stressed the importance of creating safe spaces with the people in our lives where no topic is off-limits. He also normalized the hesitancy many of us feel engaging in conversation with our loved ones about suicide.  

Many of us are afraid that talking about suicide might actually plant the idea in our friends’ minds or make them feel worse. However the truth is, when we bring things into the light—even things that feel big, scary, or shameful—it begins to lose it’s powerful hold over us.  Often there is so much shame that accompanies depression and suicidal thoughts, but shame only continues to grow in the dark. By talking about it, you are doing the important work of creating a space for people to feel seen.  

Carlos shares, “Sometimes people are just waiting for some validation. And acknowledgment.” We all want to be seen—but often we don’t know how to express what we’re feeling.  

Another thing that keeps us from asking about depression and suicide is the fear of not knowing how to respond when our loved ones say they are struggling. We care about our sisters, brothers, uncles, friends, etc., but maybe we don’t feel equipped to hold that information. So often, the fear of getting it “wrong” keeps us from showing up at all and clearly asking our friends the question:  

“Are you struggling with suicidal thoughts?”  

The truth is, we don’t have to get it exactly right; we just have to be willing to show up, sit with those we love, and search for hope together.  

We asked Carlos to share a few practical steps we can take when someone in our life shares they are struggling with suicide.   

4 Steps to responding to someone struggling with suicide   

1. Gratitude   

“The first step is gratitude. Say, ‘Thank you for sharing that with me.’”   

Expressing gratitude is a powerful way of validating someone’s experience and the vulnerability and strength it took for them to share. One of the most healing things we can do for the people in our lives—no matter what they’re facing—is remind them that what they’re experiencing isn’t too big or too scary for us to hold with them.   

2. Hold Space  

“We get so uncomfortable with other people’s emotional pain that we immediately want to fix it for them. But, instead, we can simply say, ‘That’s a lot. I want to let you know that I am here with you and for you. You’re not alone in this.’”  

Holding space for the people in our life looks like showing up in the discomfort and acknowledging and validating what they’re experiencing. So many of us grew up in systems that dismissed our pain. It is a rare gift to ask someone to share what they’re feeling and meet them with grace, empathy, and without judgment.    

3. Provide Resources   

“After we create space to say, ‘I see how hard this is.’ We can say, ‘Now how can I help you? If you want to walk out of this, we can find resources together.’”   

Providing resources for those we love can look a lot of different ways. It may mean pointing them to the National Suicide Lifeline or encouraging them to seek professional help with a therapist. It may be sharing stories of people who have walked in their shoes and come out the other side. It also can look as simple as offering your presence—ask to hang out with them or share a meal with them.  

To Write Love On Her Arms is an incredible resource for you and the people you love.   

4. Ask Again   

“I think the easier opt-out would be to think they’re fine. To think ‘They haven’t talked about it in a while, so I’m sure they’re better.’ Make sure you check in on all your friends, not just the ones you think are okay. Check in on the ones who seem like they have it together or those you haven’t checked in on a while—because you never know, you absolutely never know.”   

We invite you to view this as an ongoing conversation with the people you love. Just because they tell you they’re not feeling suicidal right now, doesn’t mean they might not feel that way again in the future. We believe that it’s vital to check-in on all the people we love. We all want connection. We all want to be seen. We all want safe spaces to talk about the things we’re facing.   

When you don’t know how to show up, we encourage you to show up, anyway. Sometimes the best gift we can offer is our presence and willingness to lean into hearing about someone’s experience.   


Listen to the entire conversation with Carlos on this week’s episode of the Living Centered Podcast.   

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicide, we encourage you to reach out for help. You can find support at To Write Love On Her Arms or by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255. No matter what you’re facing, there is a way forward. Healing is possible. You matter.