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Suicide Prevention & Self-Harm

It can be hard to reach out to someone when things are overwhelming. But conversation is a powerful coping tool. Talking or texting with someone on an anonymous, private helpline can relieve stress. Call or text 988 for support.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide prevention is crucial because it saves lives. It's about providing support, resources, and interventions to individuals who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors. By raising awareness, offering support systems, and providing access to mental health services, we can help people in distress find hope, connection, and reasons to keep living. Preventing suicide not only saves the life of the individual at risk but also prevents immense pain and suffering for their loved ones. It's essential to address the root causes of suicide, such as mental illness, trauma, and social isolation, while also promoting resilience, coping skills, and a sense of belonging within communities. Every person's life is valuable, and suicide prevention efforts strive to ensure that everyone has the support they need to stay safe and find reasons to keep going.

Suicidal Thinking:

  • Suicide isn’t always about wanting to die.  It’s about wanting to end overwhelming pain.

    • When someone’s pain, suffering, and/or hopelessness outweigh their ability to cope, they may consider suicide.

    • These feelings can occur for all people. Even when they seem to be doing well on the outside. Even those who have a strong community who cares about them.

Language Matters:

  • Instead of saying “committed suicide”, Let’s say “died by suicide” or “took their own life”​

    • We want to remove any judgement from our language. This will go a long way toward helping reduce stigma around suicide and mental health.​

Protection From Suicide:

  • So, what protects us against suicide?

  • Connections to friends, family, culture, and community.

  • Limited access to lethal methods. (e.g., firearms, medications, drugs)

  • Coping and problem-solving skills.

  • Access to physical and mental health care.



Look for Signs

Emotions & Feelings

Actions & Behaviors

Empathize and Listen

To help others feel heard and valued:

  • Give your full attention.

  • Show that you’re listening.

  • Listen without judgment.

Use active listening skills:

  • Repeat, rephrase, and reflect what you’ve heard them say.

  • Ask open-ended questions.

  • Keep an open mind.


Ask About Suicide


Here are examples of how to ask:

  • Are you thinking about suicide?

  • Are you thinking about killing yourself?

If we can’t say the word, neither can they. When we ask directly, we...

  • Communicate that we’re open and willing to discuss a complex topic.

  • Invite the person to be honest.

  • Show that we care about them and what happens to them.

  • Give them an opportunity to share their burden and not feel so alone.

How do I ask about suicide?

  • “Sometimes when people are [INSERT WARNING SIGNS], they’re thinking about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?”

    • Using this phrase is really helpful because...

      • Saying “people” and “they” helps to normalize their experiences and thoughts.

      • The warning signs you’ve heard or observed become part of the ask.

      • It shows you’ve been listening to what they are going through.​

If these feel too difficult to say, here is another way to ask:

  • "Are you thinking of ending your own life?”

  • The important thing is to be direct and avoid vague or judgmental language.

If they say YES

  • We want to try to stay calm. Acting surprised can get in the way of helping.

  • Sharing these feelings with someone can relieve the pressure, pain and shame they may be feeling.

  • This can help to reduce suicide risk.

  • Help:

    • Always tell a school counselor or trusted adult. No exceptions!

    • Getting this person help is worth risking a friendship.

    • It’s better for someone to be mad at you than to keep suicide a secret or take on a burden you can’t hold.​

    • And... don’t forget about yourself!

      • You matter just as much, so make sure you get support for yourself.

      • Reach out to someone you trust or one of the resources listed in this training.

If they say NO:

  • Remain calm and non-judgmental.

  • Show them you still care.

  • Consider if more information is needed.

  • You can ask again later, suggesting they tell you who they would talk to if suicidal.

  • Move on to other steps to help them.

  • Importantly, don't appear relieved if they say no. It's okay for them not to be ready to talk yet. But you've opened the door for them to talk about suicide if they ever feel like it.

Reduce the Danger

Reducing the danger includes...

  • Always bringing your concerns to the counseling center or other crisis professionals.

  • Telling a trusted adult about access to lethal means.

    • You are not responsible for removing access to lethal means on your own.

    • Always involve a trusted adult in situations involving lethal means.​

  • Reporting concerning content online.



Next Steps

Next steps are about connecting a person in crisis to resources that can help. Remember, always tell a trusted adult if you are concerned about someone. Many factors like (lacking financial means, not having insurance, lack of transportation, hurtful stereotypes, cultural beliefs, issues with our healthcare system and more) contribute to the barrier to seeking help. 

Finding Help

  • Who are the trusted adults in our school - in our community?

Tough Situations

  • What if they refuse to talk to a counselor or other adult? What should we do? You can say...

    • “I understand you wanting to keep this private, but your safety is the most important thing right now.”

    • “I need to be sure you are safe.”

Resources to Support

988 is a national initiative that will connect you with a trained crisis counselor to discuss suicide, mental health and substance use crises, and any other emotional crises.

Every situation will be different, but keep in mind...

  • Emergency room care is not always necessary.

  • 988 will respond to anyone in crisis.

  • Collaboration, monitoring and linking to crisis resources are all key to helping people stay safe.

  • Let trusted adults or crisis line staff decide what next steps can be taken to help make sure this person is safe and not alone during a crisis.

Crisis Text Line now offers service in Spanish.

  • Did you know that Washington State’s keyword is ‘HEAL?’

  • Texts are free and they won’t show up on a phone bill.

  • Find more resources here.

  • Trans Lifeline and The Trevor Project are great resources for trans/nonbinary youth and LGBTQ+ youth.

Here are some safety tips we can all practice, starting today.

  • Add 24-hour crisis resources into your devices.

  • Let adults know about any access to lethal means.

  • Check in with your friends regularly.

  • Seek out counselors, crisis lines, and trusted support people.

  • Report concerning content when you see it online.

Myths or Facts

FACT: Suicide affects all

Depression, anxiety, and substance use are all risk factors for youth suicide. Mental illness and substance use disorders are treatable, and many suicides are preventable. Because these challenges can surface at a young age, prevention plays an important role. This issue affects everyone, so our staff and parent community also get this training. People of any background can be at risk for suicide, no matter our identity. Members of marginalized groups are at higher risk due to being treated poorly and/or insensitively.

FACT: Suicide results from
multiple complex factors

Many stories about suicide tend to focus on one cause. But the reality is, most suicides involve multiple complex factors. We also know that a death by suicide impacts entire communities.

FACT: Asking about suicide does not cause suicide

We know that asking about suicide does NOT cause suicide. In fact, asking can actually reduce the amount of distress that someone is experiencing.

MYTH: People talking about sucide are just seeking attention.

Another common myth about suicide is that people who talk about it or express suicidal thoughts are just seeking attention and won't actually go through with it. In reality, talking about suicide is often a cry for help and should be taken seriously. Dismissing someone's suicidal thoughts as attention-seeking can prevent them from getting the support they desperately need and may increase their risk of harm.


Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves on purpose, usually by cutting, burning, or hitting themselves. They do it to cope with strong emotions like sadness or anger. It's not usually a suicide attempt, but a way to deal with overwhelming feelings. People who self-harm often need help from therapists or loved ones to learn better ways of coping.

  • Self-Harm Explained

    • Hurting yourself on purpose (cutting, burning, etc.)

    • Sign of emotional distress, not a mental illness itself

  • Who Is Most at Risk

    • Teens and young adults

    • People who experienced trauma

  • Why People Self-Harm

    • Cope with overwhelming emotions

    • Feel something (replace emotional numbness)

    • Punish themselves

  • The Cycle of Self-Harm

    • Can become dangerous and lead to shame and guilt

  • Treatment Options

    • Therapy (learn new coping skills)

    • Examples of positive coping skills include:

      • Direct the urge at something else – Use a punching bag, scream into a pillow or rip up a magazine

      • Self-soothe – Take deep breaths, take a bath or try meditation

      • Express yourself – Write how you feel or write creatively

      • Create something – Paint, draw or craft

      • Focus on music – Listen to your favorite song or play an instrument

      • Exercise – Run, dance or just go for a walk

      • Avoid alcohol and drugs – Substances can lower your self-control and increase risk of self-injury

    • Medication (if needed for underlying conditions)

  • How to Help Someone Who Self-Harms

    • Listen without judgment

    • Encourage them to seek help

Self-harm is a challenging mental health symptom to overcome—and lack of understanding only makes it that much more difficult to work through. When it comes to serious mental health symptoms like self-harm, we need to show others and ourselves compassion rather than judgement. There is no shame in needing support and help.

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