LEARN Saves Lives Suicide Prevention Tips

Together we have the power to prevent harm and suffering from injury and violence.

This information will help you recognize when someone may be at risk for suicide and how to connect them with immediate help. LEARN is an acronym for five steps.

UW Forefront Suicide Prevention created the LEARN Steps. This five step process can help you talk with someone you’re worried about, learn if they are considering suicide, and take early steps to keep them safe.

LEARN stands for:

LOOK for Signs

EMPATHIZE and Listen

ASK Directly About Suicide

REMOVE the Dangers




female looking down

LOOK for Signs

In stressful times, we all look out for one another.
Common warning signs of suicide:

  • Talking, joking or researching about death. These signs are often ignored
  • Feelings of hopelessness, depression, anxiety, anger, humiliation, or thinking you are a burden to others
  • Changes in personality, outlook on life, academic/work performance, sleep issues
  • Isolating from others, or from daily life
  • Increasing abuse of alcohol/drugs, reckless behavior, giving away possessions

If you see multiple concerning changes in behavior, move on to the next LEARN step.

EMPATHIZE and Listen

Starting an empathetic conversation can be this simple:

“I’m concerned about you. You don’t seem like your usual self. What’s going on?”

How to show empathy while you listen:

  • Listen with compassion. Show them you care by giving your full attention.
  • Acknowledge their pain and their feelings.
  • Don’t judge. Avoid ‘fixing’ their problem. Realize that their perceptions are their reality.
  • Use your own words to reflect back what they have told you, and say, “I’m really sorry you’re going through this.” “Thank you for telling me.”
  • Just listen. Those who have really struggled say this helped them the most.

ASK Directly About Suicide

Asking about suicide will NOT plant the idea in someone’s mind.

What to say when you ask:

  • Ask directly and calmly. “Are you thinking about suicide? Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
  • Or ask by mentioning things you hear the other person say:

“Sometimes when people are…

  • Struggling with fears about their future…
  • Suffering a major loss…
  • Feeling hopeless…

…they begin to think about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?”

  • Please avoid the phrase ‘hurting yourself’ when you ask. This phrase can be misunderstood.
  • This conversation may take some time. Be comfortable leaving silence in the air.
  • Be prepared to hear a “yes.”

REMOVE the Dangers

Youth often know where keys are hidden.

  • If they say yes, ask these questions, one by one: A) “Do you have a time when you’re thinking of doing this? B) “Do you have a plan?” C) “Do you have access to the method to carry out that plan?”
  • Putting time & distance between someone at risk for suicide & the method they plant to use can save a life.
  • Lock up or temporarily remove from their home firearms.
  • Lock up all medications, including over-the-counter medications. Leave accessible a one-week supply.
  • In crisis, lock up belts, ropes, knives, chemicals.
  • Report troubling social media posts.

The best choices to secure firearms are a gun safe, lock box or fast-access locking device for a home-defense firearm.

NEXT Steps

Take action to get help immediately. Please focus on immediate resources first.

There are three tiers of help available.

Tier One – Immediate Crisis Resources
Tier Two – Need Treatment
Tier Three – Need A Therapist

How to make the call:

  • Connect with one of the crisis resources. Do this together with the person you are concerned about.
  • These resources are free and confidential.
  • A trained crisis counselor will listen until they understand the situation, then provide support and share resources that may be helpful.
  • Please put the appropriate crisis numbers (including the Lifeline and Crisis Text Line) in your cell phone now.
  • When possible, make this call on their phone, so the person you are concerned about will have the number in their phone, too.
  • Youth can also call a trusted adult, including a faith leader, teacher, coach, elder or spiritual healer
  • NOTE: Not all community members are comfortable calling 911. Use it only in an emergency or last resort.
  • If they do not agree to stay safe, stay with them as long as you feel it is safe for you.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255.
Press 1 for Veterans.
Press 2 for Spanish.

Crisis Text Line: 741741, text ‘heal’.



Do you need help right now? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK.

This web site is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute providing medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. No physician-patient relationship is created by this web site or its use. Neither HIPRC, the University of Washington, nor its employees, nor any contributor to this web site, makes any representations, express or implied, with respect to the information provided herein or to its use.