Teen Suicide

How to Help a Suicidal Teen

- This list is based on 15 years of direct work with suicidal teens. It was put together by the editors of the book, Letters from the Unloved, Steve Hein, founder of EQI.org and "P", founder of Whatdepresses.me

Don't make threats.


Don't betray their trust.


Don't give ultimatums. For example, "Either you tell your parents or I will."


Don't label or judge them.


Don't invalidate them.


Ask them how much they feel understood by you from zero to ten.


Believe in them.


Don't try to control them.


Show you care without trying to control them.


Don't debate with them.


Be patient with them.


Don't punish them, or threaten to.


Don't interrupt them.


Don't abandon them.

And absolutely, positively...

Do not betray their trust.


Also, if possible, and they agree, help them find them an emotionally safe place to live, eat and sleep. It is almost certain that if they feel depressed and suicidal, they do not feel emotionally safe where they are currently living or with the people who they are living with or who are making the "rules." (Explanation)

See Also - How to Help a Depressed Teen

When asked to look at this list, one teen who tried to kill herself said, "I agree 1,000 %"

Another said, "I completely agree. That is the list I go by when I help someone else who is suicidal."

Other ways to help

- Provide information about emotional abuse and invalidation

- Provide the teen with a support network of other teens who will understand their situation. Even one understanding friend can save the life of a depressed young person, or a person of any age for that matter, but especially a young person whose friendships and relationships are so important.


The idea of helping a teen find another environment, in other words a different home, may seem like a very strong statement, but it is based on 15 years of direct work with suicidal and self-harming teens.

In our experience, there has never been even one case where a teen who was suicidal lived in an emotionally safe home.

If it were an emotionally safe and supportive home, they would not be suicidal.

This may sound simplistic, but we believe it is a true statement and the evidence supports it. It is like saying if someone is physically starving, it is clear they have not gotten enough to eat. So the first priority is to provide them with food. But in this case it is emotional support and safety. Again, this is based on 15 years of helping suicidal teenagers.

Once the teen gets away from the parents or unsupportive or unsafe home or environment, they can start to see that what happened to them was not healthy. It might have been "normal" for them, but it was not normal in healthy homes.

If the parents are willing and cooperative, provide the parents with emotional skills training. Whether the teen is returned needs to depend on the parent's willingness to change, not the teens ability to adapt, change or cope.