How to HELP a friend

All of us know of a friend or family member who is experiencing or has experienced suicidal thoughts at some point in their life. The truth is that anyone is at risk of suicide, including ourselves. Our goal is to create a community of caring and educate others on How to HELP a friend stay safe. Active Minds peer educators provide suicide prevention workshops, referrals, and resources.


H - Hear the warning signs

  • Most people who are having thoughts of suicide want help. As a friend you may notice warning signs such as verbal signs (e.g. I'm tired of life, I can't go on anymore ), significant changes in behavior (e.g. stopped attending class, lost interest in things they like, give away prized possessions including pets), symptoms of depression or other mental health concern (e.g. loss of appetite, low mood, isolation, feelings of hopelessness).


E - Evaluate the situation and ask if suicidal

  • When entering any helping situation make sure that your safety comes first. Express your concern for your friend and their well-being. Evaluate if the person is at immediate risk. 
  • Ask your friend about thoughts of suicide. "Sometimes when people are feeling this way they may have thoughts of ending their life. Are you having thoughts of suicide?"
  • If they are having thoughts ask if they have a plan or if they might act on those thoughts (e.g. if they have a specific plan or means,). If they say yes ask if they can ask someone to store the item (e.g. weapon), flush pills, or give the item to a supportive person.


L - Let your friend know you care, listen for reasons for dying and living

  • Express to your friend that you care and you are ready to listen.
  • It is important that the person express the reasons they may want to die as well as their reasons for staying alive.


P - Plan, make a safety plan and utilize resources

  • Develop a safety plan. 
  • Consult with a counselor at any time in Counseling and Psychological Services if providing help is beyond what you feel comfortable doing.
  • Ask your friend to identify 1-2 people they consider part of their support system. Who can they tell about their thoughts of suicide.
  • Refer students to Counseling and Psychological Services - call (415) 338-2208 and ask about an emergency appointment for your friend. (Express your concern to the caller and the need to make an emergency appointment today for your friend. Please be sure to provide your friend's name and have your friend speak to them directly)
  • Walk your friend to the Counseling and Psychological Services.


Suicide Prevention Resources

Consultation Services:

Counseling & Psychological Services

Phone: (415) 338-2208 TDD: (415) 338-4321

Student Services Building, Room 208, SFSU


Emergency Services:

  • San Francisco 24 Hour Crisis Line: (415) 781-0500
  • For Spanish Speakers - Linea de Apoyo: (415) 989-5212 or 1-800-303-7432
  • National Life Line: 1-800-784-2433
  • SF Mobile Crisis: (415) 206-8125 
  • SF General Hospital: (415) 206-8125
  • Westside Crisis Clinic: (415) 355-0311
  • 911