How to help someone with suicidal thoughts over text

How to help someone with suicidal thoughts over text

In this present dispensation, conversations aren’t just limited to face-to-face interactions like in the 90s. Now we have different means of interaction and text message is at the top of the chain. Text messages are powerful means of communication and connection, allowing us to reach out and be there for friends and family, colleagues, and strangers, even when we’re physically apart. As a student counselor for over a decade, I’ve seen countless instances where a simple text conversation made a significant difference in someone’s life.

Especially when it comes to the heavy weight of mental health concerns and suicidal thoughts. Being prepared to offer support through a medium as accessible as text can be crucial. But it’s not about having all the answers; it’s about showing that you genuinely care. On this page, I’ll guide you on how to help someone with suicidal thoughts over text.

Recognize Warning Signs in Texts

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand and recognize when someone might be in distress or struggling. In a text conversation, there won’t be vocal cues or facial expressions, so you’ll have to rely solely on the words shared. Through my experience, these are some of the patterns to be mindful of:

  1. Sudden Change in Behavior or Mood: If someone who’s generally cheerful starts sounding desolate or if an always reserved person suddenly pours out their emotions, these can be signals.
  2. Expressions of Hopelessness or Worthlessness: Phrases like “I just can’t go on,” “It’s all pointless,” or “Everyone would be better off without me” are red flags.
  3. Direct or Indirect References to Death or Suicide: While direct mentions are clear signs, indirect ones might be phrases like “I wish I could disappear” or “I want everything to end.”

I urge you to always trust your instincts. If something feels off or concerning, it’s okay to check in with them more directly. Asking them openly about their feelings can make a world of difference.

Immediate Actions to Take

When someone reaches out or hints at their struggles, especially with suicidal thoughts, it’s crucial to tread carefully. Your response can be a beacon of hope. Here’s what I recommend, based on my years of experience:

  1. Always Take Them Seriously: Never assume they’re just seeking attention or going through a fleeting emotion. Recognize the gravity of their feelings and let them know you’re genuinely concerned.
  2. Encourage Professional Support: While you can offer a listening ear, always emphasize the importance of speaking to a professional. Texts like “I’m really concerned about you. It might help to talk to someone trained in this” can be encouraging.
  3. Avoid Giving Simplistic Advice: Remember, they’re in a sensitive place. Avoid saying things like “Just be positive” or “Things will get better soon.” Instead, reassure them that it’s okay to feel this way and that help is available.
  4. Stay Present and Calm: It’s natural to feel anxious or scared in such a situation. However, your calm presence can be grounding. Let them know you’re there for them, even if it’s just through texts like “I’m here for you” or “You’re not alone in this.”

I can’t stress enough how vital it is to approach such conversations with patience, understanding, and compassion. Sometimes, just knowing someone is there can be the light someone needs in their darkest moments.

Dos and Don’ts of Texting

Here are some key principles that can guide your responses. Trust me, helping someone with suicidal thoughts over text can be challenging and time-consuming but worth the effort to save a life. Here’s what I’ve learned and recommend:


  1. Listen Actively: Often, the act of venting or sharing can be therapeutic. Respond with understanding, such as “I’m truly sorry you’re feeling this way, but I’m glad you told me.”
  2. Use Clear and Simple Language: Now is not the time for ambiguity. Make your care and concern evident with straightforward texts like “I’m worried about you.”
  3. Reflect Their Feelings Back to Them: This shows you’re genuinely listening. For instance, “It sounds like you’ve been feeling really overwhelmed lately.”
  4. Reiterate Your Concern and Care: Reminders like “You’re important to me” or “I care about you” can provide comfort.


  1. Use Guilt or Minimize Their Feelings: Avoid phrases like “Think about how your family will feel” or “Others have it worse.”
  2. Offer Solutions Unless Asked: This isn’t the time for solutions; it’s the time for support. Rather than “You should try meditation,” consider “I’m here to support you in any way I can.”
  3. Make Promises You Can’t Keep: While it’s tempting to say “Everything will be okay,” focus on being present and encouraging professional help.

Every individual is unique, and so are their struggles. While these guidelines can assist, always trust your understanding of the person and the relationship you share with them.

Guide Towards Professional Help

While your support is invaluable, there’s a limit to what can be achieved over text, especially when it comes to critical matters such as suicidal thoughts. Encouraging professional intervention is a responsible and caring step. Here’s how I suggest you approach it:

  1. Share Helpline Numbers and Resources: Equip them with immediate assistance. You could say, “I think it would be beneficial to speak to someone who’s trained to help. Would you like me to share a helpline number?”
  2. Recommend Online Therapy Platforms: Sometimes, the idea of a face-to-face conversation can be daunting. Online therapy can be an excellent bridge. “There are some great online platforms where you can chat or video call with professionals.”
  3. Encourage Local Support: If they’re hesitant about helplines or online platforms, maybe they’d be open to visiting a local counselor or crisis center. “I believe there’s a counseling center nearby. Would you like me to look up the details for you?”
  4. Advocate for Communicating with Trusted Individuals: Encourage them to speak to someone they trust, be it a family member or friend. “Talking to someone you’re close to might be helpful. Is there someone you feel comfortable sharing with?”

Remember, the goal isn’t to push them but to present options. Let them know that they’re not alone and that there are many avenues to seek help, should they choose to.

Self-Care and Setting Boundaries

Supporting someone who has suicidal thoughts over text can be emotionally taxing. It’s akin to the airline safety guideline of securing your own oxygen mask before helping others. Here’s what I suggest based on my experience:

  1. Understand Your Limits: While your intentions are noble, there’s a limit to how much emotional weight you can bear. It’s alright to acknowledge when it becomes overwhelming.
  2. Seek Support for Yourself: Just as you’re there for them, ensure you have someone to talk to, whether it’s friends, family, or a counselor. Sharing and debriefing can alleviate the emotional toll.
  3. Establish Boundaries: It’s essential to set limits on when and how long you can converse. This isn’t about being distant, but about ensuring you’re mentally equipped to offer help. You might say, “I need to head to bed now, but we can talk again tomorrow morning. Please consider calling a helpline if you need immediate support.”
  4. Stay Grounded: Engage in activities that refresh and rejuvenate you. This can be anything from reading, meditating, or spending time in nature. Remember, you can offer better support when you’re emotionally and mentally stable.

Lastly, it’s crucial to remind yourself that you’re doing your best. While you offer support, the choices and decisions ultimately lie with the individual. Your role is to be there, offer guidance, but also ensure you’re taking care of your own well-being.


While texting may seem impersonal, in today’s digital age, it can be a lifeline—a bridge connecting two souls seeking understanding and compassion. I’ve walked you through recognizing the signs, the dos and don’ts, guiding them toward professional help, and also the importance of self-care. Always remember, your role isn’t to be the solution, but rather a supportive presence, directing them toward the help they need.

The world can feel like a lonely place for someone battling such thoughts. Your patience, empathy, and genuine concern can make a difference. But in all this, ensure you’re also caring for yourself. In times of darkness, even a small light can guide the way. Be that light for someone, but also remember to keep your own flame burning bright.

Ashinedu Diamond
Ashinedu Diamond

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