USPS Employee Assistance Program    |    800-327-4968  (800-EAP-4YOU)    |    TTY: 877-492-7341
Connected to Life, Connected to Hope

People give many reasons for wanting to take their own lives. The bottom line, however, is that someone will commit suicide when they have lost all hope that things will get better - when they are convinced death is the best possible option and the only chance they have of relieving their pain. This is an incredibly lonely place to be. Supportive connections to other people - to society as a whole, to groups, and to individuals - is a buffer that helps protect us from slipping into the ultimate hopelessness and loneliness that leads to suicide.

Although there may often be other interventions needed to help someone overcome hopelessness and to guard against suicide, being in healthy relationships with others is a key protective factor. How does connection with others help?

  • Close relationships with others helps put problems into perspective. When connected to others, problems are not as overwhelming. A burden shared is a burden lightened.
  • People who are contemplating suicide often will not reach out for support. Close ties with others ensures a greater chance that those around them will reach out to the person experiencing thoughts of suicide. Friends and family members who are actively involved in the lives of someone who is depressed are known as gatekeepers. They are often the first to become aware that an individual is at risk and have an early opportunity to get them help.
  • Close, positive interactions with others can help to ward off feelings of loneliness. Strong relationships with family, especially when established early in life, can produce a greater sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Strong involvement in communities can bring a greater understanding of purpose and meaning in life.
  • Overall, socially connected people achieve greater fulfillment of basic human needs such as a sense of belonging, a feeling of accomplishment, and the need for safety and security.

So, how can you be there to provide helpful social support to someone who is depressed or who may be suicidal?

Show up.

Simply being present with someone sends a message, “You are worth it and you are important to me.”

Don’t try to cheer someone up when they are depressed.

This can reinforce the depressed individual’s idea that no one understands and further cements them in feelings of loneliness. Instead, acknowledge how painful or overwhelming life is for them.

Be direct.

Although it feels uncomfortable, rather than avoid the subject of suicide, it is better to come right out and ask, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” You may be afraid to hurt your loved one’s feelings but don’t be. This is very rarely the case. And, you cannot increase a person’s risk of suicide by “planting” the idea in their head.

Take it seriously.

When someone mentions wanting to die or thinking about taking their own life, get assistance. Try to get someone on the phone that can help (the person’s doctor or therapist or someone at a suicide hotline) or see if your friend would be willing to go to the hospital. If necessary, call 911 and request a crisis intervention team to come and handle the situation.

Offer practical help when you can.

Help them get to an appointment. Offer to help them find resources. Offer to help them with tasks that seem overwhelming such as walking their dog or mowing the lawn. Many times the things you would do for someone who is grieving a death are the exact things that mean the world to someone who is depressed and weary.

Practice self-care and set boundaries.

It is not okay for your loved one, regardless of how emotionally fragile they are, to be abusive to you in any way. Let them know that you are aware of their pain but also that they cannot call you names, be disrespectful, or physically harm you. It is also not okay for your friend to expect you to be available at the drop of a hat 24/7. Explain to them clearly that you physically can’t be available to them 24/7 but you do want to be available to support them. Tell them clearly when you are available.

Finally, believe in the possibility of change. Even when you feel that all options have been exhausted, keep believing with the hopeless person that there is the hope of hope. If you continue to believe this, it makes it easier for them to believe it. Then start over at square one and just show up.

Make the Connection

The USPS EAP offers additional resources for spreading awareness and preventing suicide through connectedness. Below you will find a series of posters from our latest Suicide Awareness and Prevention Campaign on the importance of making the connection with...

Health Resource Library

The USPS EAP offers additional resources for staying connected. From videos and articles on healthy connections to tips for improving connectedness, we have tools and resources available in our Health Resource Library to help individuals feel a sense of connection to others and to their communities in order to live longer and enjoy happier, healthier lives. For more health assessments follow the link below.

Being connected to your family, friends, co-workers and community promotes your health and well being. If you want to learn more about building connections, reach out to your EAP. We have counselors available to assist you 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Give us a call at 800-327-4968 (800-EAP-4YOU) , TTY:1-877-493-7341 or visit to learn more.

Get more from your
The USPS EAP app is one more resource created to help you live healthier. Call, chat and track your mood, all in one place.
Just tap then
'Add to Home Screen'