How to talk to Someone in Emotional Distress

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Show you care, connect on a feeling level, listen

  • “I’m concerned about you and noticed you haven’t been sleeping, eating, going to class, etc.”
  • “How are you feeling?”
  • Reflect back their feelings and paraphrase: “What I hear you say is that you are in a great deal of pain and feel hopeless.”
  • “I’m glad you called.”
  • Listen with respect. Individuals in distress want understanding and care.

Ask about suicide directly

  • “Sometimes when people feel sad, they have thoughts of killing themselves. Have you had such thoughts?”
  • “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
  • “Have you considered suicide?” “How would you go about it?” “When would you do that?”
  • Remember, asking about suicide does NOT put the idea in people’s minds.

Get help. Explore options. Offer resources.

  • “What would help now?” ”Who can, who usually helps?” “How can I help?”
  • Get assistance. Avoid trying to be the only lifeline for this person. Seek out resources even if it means breaking a confidence.
  • “How would you feel about seeing the Campus counselor? Let’s call right now. I’ll walk over with you to see the counselor.”

USCB Counselors:
Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 5:00pm
Bluffton Campus Library – Suite 202
(843) 208-8264 or

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