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Preventing suicide: REACH out to help

Preventing suicide: REACH out to help

​​​​​​​​​​Suicide thoughts, attempts, and deaths affect us all. It can be hard to talk about because of feelings of fear, shame, and guilt. Let’s talk about it.

Together, we can prevent suicide. REACH stands for recognize, engage, ask, connect, and heal.

Use the REACH pathway to help your friend, coworker, or family member.

Recognize when someone is struggling

Learn about warning signs for suicide. People who are thinking of suicide can often show signs. They may:

  • talk about death or suicide
  • lose interest in activities
  • give away belongings
  • talk about being a burden

Learn more by reading Warning Signs of Suicide. If you’re worried and you notice that your family member, friend, or coworker is acting differently, talk to them.

Engage in conversation and listen

Talk with the person you’re worried about. Listen to their story with empathy.

  • It’s common to feel anxious, afraid, or frustrated when talking about suicide.
  • Limit distractions such as your phone or the TV. Also, know that some activities can help your conversation, such as doing a puzzle or going for a walk.
  • Approach your family member, friend, or coworker with compassion and care. Don’t avoid talking about emotions or suicide.
  • Be honest, open, and willing to have conversations, but don’t force them.

Continue to check back with them on an agreed upon time and respect their boundaries.

Ask about suicidal thoughts and feelings

Be clear and direct. Ask, “Are you thinking of suicide?”

  • Asking about suicide can be scary, but it’s the most important thing you can do.
  • Give reasons for why you’re asking. Talk about warning signs you’ve noticed.
  • Be open, non-judging, and prepared for them to say yes.
  • If the answer is yes, thank them for sharing. Offer to connect them to help. Don’t show extreme emotions or react in a negative way.

If the answer is no, you can still help connect them to support and resources if they are struggling. Talk to them again later. A no can change into a yes.

Connect to support and resources

You don’t need to have all the answers.

  • Explore with your family member, friend, or coworker to find out what support is best.
  • You can help by arranging a doctor’s appointment or calling a distress line together. Go with them to emergency if they’re in immediate danger.
  • Call the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642 to talk to a mental health therapist.
  • You can also call Health Link at 811 to talk to a registered nurse or find out what other services are in your area.

Help support your family member, friend, or coworker in other areas of their life. Cook and eat healthy meals together, go on walks with them, or do activities together that are pleasant or meaningful to them.

Heal yourself by taking care of your own mental health

The best way to be able to help someone is to take care of yourself.

  • Know your role. You aren’t a mental health professional. You’re a very important support person to your family member, friend, or coworker who is struggling.
  • Supporting someone you care about can also take a toll on your own mental health.

Recogniz​e when you’re not feeling yourself. Take time to use healthy coping strategies for yourself. Reach out for support when you need to.

Current as of: September 2, 2021

Author: Injury Prevention, Alberta Health Services