Helping the Suicidal Person: Tips and Techniques for Professionals provides a practical toolbox that mental health professionals can start using immediately with clients thinking of suicide.

Many books focus only on suicide risk assessment or on a single therapeutic framework. In contrast, Helping the Suicidal Person incorporates tips and techniques from an array of evidence-based therapies for suicidal individuals, such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and the Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS). Other tips haven’t been tested but make good clinical sense, like to take into account the person’s religious beliefs and other cultural considerations.

Helping the Suicidal Person draws from research findings and the clinical literature, but it’s not overly academic in tone. It’s conversational and rich with case scenarios. In all, the book contains 15 sections with 89 short chapters, each organized around an essential tip or technique:

I. Understanding Suicide and You

Tip 1: Reflect on Your Biases about Suicide

Tip 2: Take Stock of Your Experiences with Suicide (or Lack Thereof)

Tip 3: Confront “Suicide Anxiety”

Tip 4: Be Alert to Negative Feelings Toward the Suicidal Person

Tip 5: Reject the Savior Role

Tip 6: Maintain Hope

II. Overcoming the Taboo

Tip 7: Face Your Fears

Tip 8: Directly Ask about Suicidal Thoughts

Tip 9: Turn to Techniques for Eliciting Sensitive Information

Tip 10: Embrace a Narrative Approach: “Suicidal Storytelling”

Tip 11: Ask about Suicidal Imagery, Too

Tip 12: Uncover Fears of Hospitalization and Other Obstacles to Disclosure

III.  Joining with the Suicidal Person

Tip 13: Recognize that, for Some People, You are an Enemy

Tip 14: Avoid Coercion and Control Whenever Possible

Tip 15: Resist the Urge to Persuade or Offer Advice

Tip 16: Understand the Person’s Reasons for Dying

Tip 17: Validate the Wish to Die

Tip 18: Acknowledge that Suicide is an Option

IV. Assessing Danger

Tip 19: Gather Remaining Essentials about Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior

Tip 20: Learn About Prior Suicidal Crises: The CASE Approach

Tip 21: Cautiously Use Standardized Questionnaires

Tip 22: Privilege Warning Signs Over Risk Factors

Tip 23: Screen for Access to Firearms

Tip 24: Inquire about Internet Use

Tip 25: Probe for Homicidal Ideation

Tip 26: Collect Information from Family, Professionals, and Others

V. Assessing Protective & Cultural Factors

Tip 27: Examine Reasons for Living

Tip 28: Identify Other Protective Factors

Tip 29: Pay Attention to Culture

Tip 30: Investigate Religious and Spiritual Views of Suicide

VI. Putting It All Together: Estimating Risk

Tip 31: Solicit the Person’s Own Assessment of Suicide Risk

Tip 32: Estimate Acute Risk for Suicide

Tip 33: Estimate Chronic Risk for Suicide

Tip 34: Document Generously

VII.  Attending to Immediate Safety

Tip 35: Know When and Why to Pursue Hospitalization

Tip 36: Know When and Why Not to Pursue Hospitalization

Tip 37: Do Not Use a No-Suicide Contract

Tip 38: Collaboratively Develop a Safety Plan

Tip 39: Encourage Delay

Tip 40: Problem-Solve around Access to Firearms

Tip 41: Discuss Access to Other Means for Suicide, Too

Tip 42: In Case of Terminal Illness, Proceed Differently (Perhaps)

Tip 43: Seek Consultation

VIII.  Planning for Treatment

Tip 44: Make Suicidality the Focus

Tip 45: As Needed, Increase Frequency of Contact

Tip 46: Treat Chronic Suicidality Differently

Tip 47: Involve Loved Ones

Tip 48: Suggest a Physical Exam

Tip 49: Recommend an Evaluation for Medication

Tip 50: Continue to Monitor Suicidal Ideation

IX. Alleviating Psychological Pain

Tip 51: After Safety, Address Suffering

Tip 52: Look for Unmet Needs

Tip 53: Target Social Isolation

Tip 54: Use Grounding Exercises

X. Exploring Motivations and Misgivings

Tip 55: Assume Nothing: Does the Person Want to Give Up Suicide?

Tip 56: Tap Into Ambivalence

Tip 57: Compare Reasons for Living and Dying

Tip 58: Invite the Person to Look for the “Catch”

Tip 59: Search for Exceptions

XI. Inspiring Hope

Tip 60: Frame Suicide as a Problem-Solving Behavior

Tip 61: Help Brainstorm an “Options List”

Tip 62: Teach the Problem-Solving Method

Tip 63: Nourish Future Plans and Goals

Tip 64: Incorporate a Hope Kit

Tip 65: Highlight Strengths

XII.  Drawing from Cognitive Behavior Strategies

Tip 66: Connect Suicidal Thoughts to Other Thinking

Tip 67: Educate about Cognitive Distortions

Tip 68: Help Challenge Negative Thoughts

Tip 69: Elicit Coping Statements

Tip 70: Rescript Suicidal Imagery

Tip 71: Discourage Thought Suppression

Tip 72: Foster Acceptance of Suicidal Thoughts

XIII.  Improving Quality of Life

Tip 73: Enhance Coping Skills

Tip 74: Cultivate Mindfulness

Tip 75: “Broaden and Build” Positive Emotions

Tip 76: Pair Behavioral Activation with Values

XIV.  Moving Forward After a Suicide Attempt

Tip 77: Differentiate Between Suicidal and Non-Suicidal Self-Injury

Tip 78: Determine the Person’s Reaction to Having Survived

Tip 79: Conduct a Chain Analysis

Tip 80: Evaluate Where the Safety Plan Fell Short

Tip 81: Take Advantage of the “Teachable Moment”

Tip 82: Attend to the Therapeutic Relationship

Tip 83: Address the Trauma of the Suicide Attempt

Tip 84: Explore Shame and Stigma

XV. Building Resilience

Tip 85: Warn about the Possibility of Relapse

Tip 86: Review Lessons Learned

Tip 87: Complete a Relapse Prevention Protocol

Tip 88: Propose a Letter to the Suicidal Self

Tip 89: Follow Up

Interested in Helping the Suicidal Person?

If Helping the Suicidal Person interests you, you can purchase it at Amazon, at the publisher’s site, or at other booksellers. Bonus: If you purchase it from, you can get 25% off by using the discount code SS225.

You can also get more information about the book at

May Helping the Suicidal Person help you and, by extension, the people who come to you for help.

© Copyright 2017 Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, All Rights Reserved. Written for