An Article collaboration with our friends over at Anxious Faith. Check out their bio at the end of this article for more details.


Nine years ago, I was in a very different place. A dark one. With my depression deepening and feeling more isolated than ever, thoughts of ending my own life became frequent. To me, it felt like the best option – the only option. 

On the outside, I tried to keep up appearances. I went to all my classes, put on a brave face at church, and did my best not to raise any red flags. During sessions with my psychologist, I nodded solemnly and assured her I was doing okay. I didn’t tell her that I cried myself to sleep most nights, or that there was a voice in my head telling me it’d be better for everyone if I weren’t around. 

Now, almost a decade later, I’m so grateful for the people in my life back then who noticed something was wrong and stepped in to help. I don’t know if I’d be here today had it not been for their courage to ask the tough questions, or their patience to sit with me through the painful times. 

This year on World Suicide Prevention Day, my prayer is that by reading the following tips, you’ll feel better equipped to support the people in your life who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, it also doesn’t guarantee things will change, but I hope it’s a starting point. 


1. Know the Signs

There’s a common misconception that someone who’s feeling suicidal will be easy to spot. But a lot of the time, it’s not so obvious. When I was struggling with suicidal ideation, I still went through the motions. I didn’t start wearing dark eyeliner, listening to sad music, or talking about death—I was still the girl who showed up to youth group, played in the worship band, and smiled my way through school.

So to spot someone who might be struggling, you need to know what to look for. Some risk factors or signs of possible suicidal ideation include:

  • Existing mental health struggles
  • Being socially isolated
  • Reckless behavior (more spontaneous than usual, spending money, doing things on impulse, etc.)
  • A recent loss or form of grief (losing a friend or family member, going through a breakup, etc.)
  • Preferring to be alone; withdrawing from friends and activities
  • Expressing feelings of shame or hopelessness
  • Loss of energy, feeling tired all the time
  • Changes in appetite and eating habits
  • No longer putting in effort towards school, work, or hobbies
  • Signs of self-harm

Even though I did my best to keep up the facade that I was okay, there were subtle things that changed and helped my parents recognize something was wrong. I was tired all the time and didn’t have the energy to do the things I used to enjoy. I stopped going outside and exercising, and my eating habits became unhealthy. I would decline social invitations and preferred to be alone in my room. Any of these things in isolation might sound like normal teenage behavior, but together, they raised alarm bells for the people who knew me.    


2. Ask If They’re Struggling

 Even though it may feel uncomfortable, asking someone directly if they’ve felt suicidal can give them permission to share what they’re going through. While it might feel counterintuitive to bring up the topic, research shows that someone who can speak about their suicidal thoughts is less likely to take their own life. In short; asking a person whether they’re struggling with suicidal ideation won’t put the idea in their head or make it worse, it’ll give them the opportunity to feel seen and understood. 

I remember my mum asking me whether I’d thought about taking my life. It was awkward and a little painful to answer “yes”, but it also showed me how much she cared, and that she was taking how I felt seriously. Telling her made me feel safer because it meant there was another person I could go to who could help keep me grounded in the reality that ending my life wasn’t the answer.

If you suspect someone in your life might be struggling, you can ask; “Are you having thoughts about ending your life?” or, “I’ve noticed you don’t seem yourself, and I’m worried about you. How can I help?”


3. Take Time to Listen

Make space for the person to open up without fear of judgment. Even though you may not understand their feelings, by taking the time to listen and ask questions, you’re showing that you recognize the seriousness of what they’re experiencing, and you’re not trying to diminish it. As King Solomon puts it in Proverbs 18:13, “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” 

Remember that it isn’t your job to fix the situation; rather than offering up platitudes or telling them things they likely already know, focus on simply listening. If they’re not wanting to talk further, know that your presence is enough. Try doing things that allow the two of you to be around each other without the pressure to talk. 

My closest friend played a bigger role in my mental health journey than she’ll ever know. Though I never put my suicidal thoughts into words with her, I think she understood the gravity of how I was feeling. She didn’t pressure me to talk about it, or try and ‘fix’ me; she just offered her presence, plain and simple. We’d go for walks together, or watch movies, or sit and paint in silence for hours. Those times reminded me that people in my life cared, even when I didn’t feel like I was the best of company or like I was able to offer much in return.


4. Get Support

There’s only so much you can do on your own for someone who’s struggling with suicidal ideation, so encourage that person to also seek professional help. They may feel unsure of where to go or nervous about speaking to a professional, so you can offer to assist them in seeking help or even come with them to an appointment. Most countries have a 24-hour crisis helpline that you can call for support or advice on how to help your friend.

Don’t carry the burden of your friend alone, but find support for yourself, too – a mental health professional, your pastor, family, or trusted friends. For me, getting better took a holistic approach; the support of family and friends, my journey with God, and countless psychologists and counselors; there was no ‘one person’ that did it all.


5. Replace Lies With Truth

Often, suicidal thoughts stem from lies – lies such as ‘I’m a burden/failure/disappointment’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘This feeling won’t end’, and ‘Nobody cares about me’. If someone shares these kinds of thoughts with you, you can help by reminding them that they’re loved, seen, valued, and cared for.

One of the persistent thoughts that led me to think of ending my life was that I was a burden to the people around me. Because of my depression, I was no longer living up to the expectations I’d placed on myself, and I felt like I was letting people down. Something that really helped me was hearing people remind me that they loved and valued me, even in this dark place. 

Hearing my parents say they were proud, or my sisters saying they appreciated me, or my friends telling me they loved me, were all reminders that the thoughts I was facing in my head were lies; I’d be missed if I were gone. 


6. Pray

Through it all, prayer is one of our greatest weapons in the battle against suicidal thoughts. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 

Checking out A Prayer for Suicidal Ideation is also a really helpful suggestion of what you can pray for, whether you’re struggling with these thoughts yourself, or you know someone who is. 


Doing It Together

I hope that these six things, though they may seem obvious, will help to give you an idea of how to go about supporting someone you know who’s struggling with suicidal ideation. If you’re struggling yourself, our team strongly encourages you to seek professional mental health support–either through your doctor, a counselor, a therapist, or a psychologist.

And, on behalf of those of us who have struggled with suicidal ideation, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for wanting to support the people in your life. You’re making a bigger difference than you know.


Note: We recognize this topic is a heavy one. If it has brought up anything for you, please speak to someone you trust, a medical professional, or your pastor. The advice given here is general in nature and is not intended to replace professional medical advice. For more resources and support in the US, consider calling 988, the 24/7 Suicide Helpline Resource. You might also want to consider heading over to Anxious Faith’s Suicide Resource Page for more tools and help wrestling through complex questions.