How to Respond When a Student Mentions Suicide

As a youth leader you get the privilege of being invited into some of the darkest places of a teenager's heart.

What do you do when confronted with this statement:
"I'm thinking about killing myself."

Many of us don't feel equipped to respond appropriately. Below are our tips for handling this subject when it inevitably will come up...

1. When suicide comes up in conversation, keep the conversation going
I once heard a youth leader say to a student after having a conversation about suicide, "I didn't think she was serious." Unfortunately there is only one way to know if they were serious or not. Some kids may express the natural sentiment of wondering if anyone notices them. Others may be much further down the spectrum of suicidal thoughts. We'll never know which is which if we end the conversation or don't take it seriously. Keep it going! 

2. Ask lots of questions, like...

  • Are you thinking about killing/harming yourself?
  • Have you ever tried to hurt yourself before?
  • Are you planning to hurt yourself today?
  • Have you thought of ways to hurt yourself?

3. Do not leave
If a student expresses their intention to hurt themselves, do not leave them alone. Remain with them and contact another adult, preferably their parents or a pastor. If that information is not readily available call 911. 

4. Contact Southeast Staff
Any time you find yourself in a conversation with a student about suicide, ALWAYS let one of the Students at Southeast staff members know about it. Don't play the role of a savior. Get others involved immediately.

5. Refer
If you conclude there is no immediate threat to an individual, encourage them to speak to someone. See below for resources. 

SOUTHEAST CHRISTIAN COUNSELING CENTER: 
720-842-5553

NATIONAL SUICIDE HOTLINE: 
1-800-273-TALK

DENVER SUICIDE/DEPRESSION HOTLINE:
303-860-1200

Thank you for serving with Middle School Ministry. The influence you have and encouragement you bring to these students is HUGE. Let's keep the conversation going as we minister to the students.