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Warning Signs for Suicide

The following is a list of signs that may indicate someone is thinking about suicide. If a child exhibits only one or two things on this list, then it is probably not a big concern, but you would be much more worried if they exhibit several of these warning signs:

  • The child talks about suicide and about what it would be like if things end. He or she may make comments such as, “When I’m gone …” or ask questions such as, “What would it be like if I wasn’t around?”
  • The child becomes preoccupied with giving away or distributing his/her possessions.
  • The child expresses feelings of worthlessness, such as, “I’m no good to anybody.”
  • The child shows hopelessness about the future, saying things such as, “What’s the use?”


  • Talk to the child openly about suicide. Do not be afraid to ask.
  • You might gently lead into things by asking some general questions:
  • E.g. You might start by saying, “How are you doing?”, and then remember to give your loved one a chance to respond!
  • You might then express your concerns, e.g. you might say “I’m worried about you these days.”
  • You might then ask, “It seems like things have been stressful for you lately.”
  • A nice gentle way to bring up the topic of suicide is then to say, “Does it ever get so stressful that you think life isn’t worth living?”
  • If your child says yes, then you might proceed to ask, “Do you get any thoughts of doing something to end your life?”

If the child says YES to this, then seek immediate professional help. This may include:

  • Calling 911
  • Calling a telephone crisis line
  • Calling a friend or doctor

And even if the child says “no” when you directly ask about thoughts of suicide, trust your instincts. If you are worried the child is in immediate danger of ending his/her life, then get help.

Strategies to Support Someone who is Passively Suicidal

If the child is not actively suicidal, but is nonetheless still having thoughts that life is not worth living, here are some possible things you might do:

First of all, encourage them to seek professional help. Be a support, but remember that you are not a counsellor/therapist. Talk to their parent about your concerns.

Listen and validate what they are saying.

  • Thank the other person for sharing with you. “I didn’t know you were feeling so bad… Thanks for telling me.”
  • Empathize, which means that you agree and acknowledge how bad the person feels, e.g. “Yeah, I can see that would be very difficult.”

Don’t say things such as “You shouldn’t be feeling this way” or “You should count yourself lucky” because that may make the person feel guilty, and less likely to open up to you.

  • Don’t invalidate or judge the other person for how they are feeling, even if you yourself wouldn’t feel the same way. Don’t say things such as… “How can you possibly feel this way? How can you do this to your family?” Such blame will most likely make the child feel worse, making it less likely that s/he will confide in you. And worse, in some cases such statements will only confirm to the child that s/he is a burden, increasing the risk of suicide.
  • Give hope. “This is going to get better. Things were better in the past; we’ll get it back to how it was when things were better.”
  • Tell the person they are not alone. “We’re in this one together; we’re going to help you get over this.”
  • Offer your support, e.g. “How can I support you? How can I help you get over this?”
  • Help the person with problem-solving. People often think about suicide when they are overwhelmed by stress. And even if those stresses don’t directly cause a person to feel suicidal, the stress nonetheless doesn’t help. Things you might say to help problem-solving include:
    • “Sometimes people think of hurting themselves when they’re under stress or trying to deal with some problem”
    • “What’s the stress that you’re dealing with?”
    • “Is there some particular problem that you’re trying to deal with?”
    • “I’m here for you and want to help you work through this…”

Expand the Reach is a web based resource for coaches, athletes of all levels, parents and community organizations to support Mental Wellness, and early intervention for better performance in sport & life. 

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