How should I talk with someone who might be in crisis?


  • Talk in private.
  • Treat the person with respect & dignity.
  • Tell the person that you care and want to help.
  • Listen non-judgmentally.
  • Express empathy.
  • Take their concerns seriously. 
  • Let them know their life matters to you.
  • Ask questions that show you genuinely care.
  • Check your understanding by restating what they have said and summarizing facts and feelings.
  • Listen to not only what they say, but how they say it; tone of voice and nonverbal clues will give you more info about feelings.
  • Use minimal prompts when necessary to keep the conversation going. (ex: “I see” or “ah”)
  • Be patient, even when the person is not speaking clearly or is being repetitive.



  • Try to fix their problems.
  • Minimize what they are feeling.
  • Tell someone to “get over it” or “snap out of it.”
  • Interrupt the person, especially to share your opinions or experiences.
  • Be critical.
  • Express your frustration at the person for having such symptoms.
  • Tell the person you know what they are going through.
  • Blame the person for the illness.


If you suspect someone is suicidal:

  • Take the person seriously.
  • Do not leave the person alone.  If you can’t stay, arrange for someone else to be there.
  • Ask directly about suicidal thoughts. (Are you having thoughts of suicide?  Are you thinking about killing yourself?)
  • If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you need to determine whether the person has definite intentions to take their own life or if their thoughts are more vague.  (Have you decided how you would kill yourself?  Have you decided when you would do it?  Have you taken any steps to secure the things you would need to carry out your plan?)
  • Encourage appropriate professional help.
  • Offer information & resources.
  • If you are concerned about their immediate safety, call 9-1-1.


Our resources are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are in a crisis, please visit your local emergency department or call 911 immediately.