Struggling with thoughts of suicide and impulses to act on them has little to do with the strength of a man’s character or him being selfish, and much more to do with how severe his depression has become.

Fortunately, with the proper supports, we know suicide is preventable. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize and address signs that someone may be considering suicide, regardless of whether he has asked for help.

If you believe that someone is at immediate risk of suicide, call 911 – when someone’s life is at stake, we can’t afford to take a chance. Below are tips to help mitigate the risk of suicide.

Warning Signs

Talking about suicide or death

Any reference to suicide or death should be taken very seriously. Whether he says things like “I wish I was dead,” or seems preoccupied with death and wanting to escape from life, there may be reason for concern.

Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

Expressions of having no hope for the future, feeling trapped, or self-loathing may be indicators of suicidal thinking. A guy might say something like “there’s nothing left for me”, “what’s the point?”, or “I fail at everything I do…”

Putting affairs in order

This could manifest as giving away possessions or saying uncharacteristic goodbyes to friends and family. It can also look like suddenly putting personal and business affairs in order – this can be formally, through a will, insurance, etc., or informally in conversation e.g., “if something happens to me, please make sure that my dog is taken care of.”

Isolation from others

If a guy has isolated himself from others (which is unusual for him), he may be at risk of thinking about suicide.

Seeking out lethal means

If you notice a guy you’re concerned about seeking out access to guns, pills, knives, ropes, or other things that could potentially be used in a suicide attempt, you need to voice your concerns. If a man already has these objects around him, ask him if you can temporarily move them elsewhere while he’s fighting depression.

Couple talking about suicide

Starting a conversation

If we suspect that a guy in our lives may be thinking about suicide, we need to voice our concerns. This can be a challenging talk to have; one that requires courage. Many people falsely presume that discussing suicide will make things worse – this couldn’t be further from the truth. If we are concerned, we need to speak up – it could save someone’s life.

Try to also pay particular attention to the words we use when discussing suicide. Many of the terms we use to describe suicide carry harmful connotations which contribute to the shame and silence surrounding suicide and may actually make someone feel worse. By reframing the way we talk about suicide, we can help lessen the stigma around it and reaching out for support.

Key Points:

  • Talking to a guy about his darkest thoughts requires privacy and patience.
  • Be as calm and relaxed as possible.
  • Be empathetic and receptive to what he has to say. Sometimes a guy just needs to know that it’s OK to talk about things he is struggling with.
  • Avoid being judgemental, lecturing, or offering to fix his problems.

Tips and Examples of What You Can Say

Ask about suicide

With some guys a direct question is best; with others a softer approach may be better. Start with what you feel comfortable asking and go from there.

What you can say:

  • “You seem especially down recently, how are you doing these days?”
  • “Do you sometimes wish that you could escape from life and be rid of all this?”
  • “Are you thinking about hurting yourself”
  • “Do you want to end your life?”
  • “Earlier, you said that you just want to escape from everything, so I’m wondering if you’ve been having suicidal thoughts?”
  • “Have you been thinking about suicide?”

Encourage him to be honest

Encourage the guy to talk about what’s going on and to be honest.

What you can say:

  • “I want to support you, but it’s hard for me to do that if you don’t talk to me about things. I can support you best if you’re honest with me about how you’re doing, that way I know how I can help.”
  • “What type of thoughts have you been having?”
  • “Tell me about it – we’ve got time, I’m here to listen.”

Offer supportive comments

Reassure him that, as painful as things may feel right now, depression is treatable.  Let him know that you are there to help him through this.

What you can say:

  • “Just know that you aren’t alone and I’m here whenever you need me.”
  • “I know it’s hard to believe now, but many guys have gotten better from depression and thinking about ending their lives.”
  • “I know how strong you are. You can do this, and I’m not going anywhere so we can do this together.”

Try to limit his alcohol or substance use

When a person is having suicidal thoughts they are in a tremendous amount of pain. He may turn to alcohol or other substances to numb his pain, but these substances can make depression worse and dangerously lower his ability to fight suicidal thoughts. As much as might be possible, try to limit his access to alcohol or other substances if he is struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Provide ongoing support

After starting a conversation around suicide, it’s important to monitor the situation and take further steps, if necessary. Remember to be proactive – don’t wait until there is a crisis to reach out. Below, we offer some tips to help provide ongoing support to a guy who might be struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Let him know he can count on you

Regularly check-in and invite him to contact you anytime to voice how he is feeling. You can even suggest a plan for him to check in with you weekly to update you on where his head’s at; this is a way of offering your support while also urging that he takes proactive steps. His recovery may be a long process and we want him to remember we’re there if he ever needs us.

Encourage professional consultation

If he hasn’t already, encourage him to consult a professional. You may want to offer making appointments for him or providing transportation to appointments. If you don’t know which services to suggest, call a health line to learn about options and services in your area.

See our In a Crisis page for local phone numbers.

Create a safe environment

With his permission, remove potentially dangerous objects (e.g., weapons) from his living area. This may even include medications – talk to him about holding onto them or keeping them someplace out of the way; this could be a place where it’s more difficult or inconvenient for him to access the object e.g., a safe, lockbox, a roommate’s room, etc.

Set up a game plan

In case of a crisis, come up with a plan for what he will do – who he can call, which health-lines should be contacted, and where the nearest hospital is. Create a list of contacts that includes friends, family, and professionals for him to contact if he ever needs to. Make sure he is on board with the plan and understands it.