Tips and Ways to Ask the Suicide Question


Asking the question is just as important as how you ask it.

Basic Tips

  • If in doubt, don’t wait--ask the question
  • If the person is reluctant, be persistent.
  • Talk to the person alone in a private setting and with no distractions.
  • Allow the person to talk freely and allow plenty of time.
  • Have resources handy: Check out our resource page
  • If you can’t ask the question, find someone who can.

Ways to ask

Direct Approach:

  • “You seem pretty miserable; I wonder if you’re thinking about suicide?”
  • “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  • “You know, when people are as upset as you seem to be, they sometimes want to end their lives. I’m wondering if you’re feeling the same way, too.”

Less Direct Approach:

  • “Have you been unhappy lately? Have you been so unhappy that you are thinking about ending your life?”
  • “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?”

Ways not to ask:

  • “You’re not suicidal, are you?”
    This doesn’t allow a safe space for them to openly admit how they are feeling.
  • “You’re not thinking of doing anything crazy, are you?”
    This implies that they might be crazy for thinking about suicide. This question is too indirect and isn’t inviting for open conversation.
  • “You want to live, don’t you?”
    Most people who are suicidal actually want to live. They are seeking for a way to avoid pain. It is better to ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide.

After you ask the question

If your friend says they have been thinking about suicide, the next step is to persuade and refer for them to get help. Check out Step 2 and 3 in Question, Persuade and Refer. Your willingness to listen and to help can rekindle hope and make all the difference!