University of Washington
Need help now?  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255
Need Help Now? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1.800.273.8255

LEARN™ intervention steps

LEARN™ intervention steps

Tips for talking with youth, adults, friends, family, or coworkers in crisis

Never assume a person is not at risk for suicide. Anyone can be - but you can help, and suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death.

These condensed LEARN™ steps are designed to help empower individuals to play a role in recognizing peers, friends, and family who might be having thoughts of suicide, and to know how and where we can refer those individuals to keep them safe.


L: Look for warning signs / ways the person is inviting help

Examples of feelings of pain, desperation, hopelessness, helplessness, or being trapped, or threats to kill oneself:

"It will never get better." "I won't be needing these anymore."
"There is nothing I can do." "You'll miss me if I'm dead."
"There is no way out."

"Everyone will be better off without me."

Also note changes in personality: Self-isolation, giving away possessions, losing interest in activities, using more alcohol or drugs, behaving impulsively.

E: Empathize with them

"How are things going? You seem upset - do you want to talk about it?"  "It sounds like you have so many problems and they feel impossible to deal with."
"I care about you. You are going through a lot. Let's talk." "You are in a lot of pain. I see it and I hear that you feel alone in it. I care. Please tell me more."

A: Ask the person clearly, directly, and compassionately about suicide

Examples:

"Are you thinking about suicide?"

"Are you thinking about ending your life?"

"When you say _____ do you mean you're thinking about killing yourself?"

This may seem like an awkward, if not impossible thing to do. But know this: asking the suicide question does not increase risk. You won't cause someone to act on it by asking. Asking sincerely, compassionately, and in context to what you have seen shows that you care. Sharing suicidal thoughts reduces feelings of isolation, and talking generally provides comfort and some relief.

R: Remove the danger

In the Ask step, you inquired about a suicide plan to see if they have means/access to firearms, ropes or excess medication. Now it's time to work with friends, family or law enforcement to secure or remove these items.

N: Next level of care

Let them know you are concerned and that you want to help. Ask if you can help connect them to someone who has more expertise. 

Examples:

"Can I give you the name of a counselor who might be able to help?"

"I'm willing to go with you to our local help center (or school counselor)."

"Let's create a safety plan together about who you can call and what you can do if you feel at risk again." 

Free, 24/7 anonymous help is available by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-TALK (8255). If the person in a crisis lives in King County, this number routes you to the Crisis Clinic.

In King County, TeenLink is a resource line for teens, staffed by trained teens. 

MY3 is a free app available for iPhones or Android devices to help create a safety plan.

If someone is in immediate risk for suicide, call 911 or take them to the nearest hospital if it is safe for you to do so.

To inquire about opportunities to take a hands-on, 1.5-hour LEARN™ training, please contact Forefront at ffront@uw.edu or (206) 543-1016.