This article addresses content of a sensitive nature which may include triggering language. Reader discretion is advised. We acknowledge that the subject matter discussed herein may evoke strong emotional responses or discomfort for some individuals. It is important to approach the material with awareness of its potential impact and to prioritize self-care as needed while engaging with the content.

Assessing Mental Health and Suicidal Thoughts: Asking the Right Questions

When it comes to evaluating mental health and assessing the presence of suicidal thoughts, asking the right questions is crucial. However, it’s equally important to navigate this terrain with sensitivity and care. Proper questioning can help identify individuals at risk and connect them with appropriate support and resources. On the other hand, asking the wrong questions can inadvertently worsen the situation or cause discomfort. In this article, we’ll discuss the questions that should be asked and those that should be avoided when assessing mental health and suicidal ideation.

Questions to Ask:


  1. General Well-being:
    • On a scale of 1-10, how are feeling?
    • Are you experiencing any changes in your mood or behavior?
    • Can you describe what you’re going through?
  2. Suicidal Thoughts:
    • Have you been feeling very low?
    • What goes through your mind when you are feeling low?
    • Can you control your thoughts?
    • If have felt despair do you have someone to reach out to?
  3. Support Systems:
    • Who do you turn to for support during difficult times?
    • Are there people in your life you feel comfortable talking to about your struggles?
    • Have you reached out to any mental health professionals before?
  4. Coping Mechanisms:
    • What do you usually do to cope with stress or difficult emotions?
    • Have you found any activities or practices helpful in managing your mental health?
    • Are there any strategies you’ve used in the past to overcome tough times?
  5. Medical History:
    • Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition?
    • Are you currently taking any medications for your mental health?
    • Have you experienced any significant life events or traumas recently?

Questions to Avoid:

  1. Leading Questions:
    • You’re not thinking about hurting yourself, are you?
    • You don’t really want to die, do you?
    • You wouldn’t do something stupid, would you?
    • Have you tried committing suicide?
  2. Minimizing Questions:
    • It’s not that bad, is it?
    • You’ll get over it eventually, won’t you?
    • Are you just seeking attention?
  3. Judgmental Questions:
    • How could you think about something so selfish?
    • Don’t you care about the people who love you?
    • What’s wrong with you?
  4. Assumptive Questions:
    • You’re not depressed, are you?
    • You’re not one of those people who need therapy, right?
    • You haven’t really tried to hurt yourself, have you?
  5. Closed-ended Questions:
    • Are you okay?
    • Do you ever feel sad?
    • Have you ever thought about suicide?

Is Asking Direct Questions Dangerous

It’s crucial to approach asking direct questions about suicide and self-harm with sensitivity and caution, as they can indeed be triggering for some individuals. However, the potential benefits of asking direct questions often outweigh the risks when conducted thoughtfully and in appropriate contexts. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Timing and Setting: Direct questions about suicidal thoughts or self-harm should be asked in a safe and private environment where the individual feels comfortable and supported. It’s essential to choose an appropriate time and setting where the individual can freely express themselves without fear of judgment or interruption. (However, asking questions to a stranger without permission or support could potentially plant a seed and trigger the individual). If the individual states multiple times they are not comfortable with the question you should stop.
  2. Building Rapport: Establishing trust and rapport with the individual before asking sensitive questions is crucial. Taking the time to listen actively, show empathy, and validate their experiences can help create a supportive atmosphere and reduce the likelihood of triggering distress. (You cannot ask direct questions if you have never spoken to the individual before).
  3. Use of Language: The language used when asking direct questions should be non-judgmental, empathetic, and respectful. Avoid using sensationalized or stigmatizing language that may exacerbate feelings of shame or guilt.
  4. Permission to Talk: Before asking direct questions, it’s important to seek the individual’s permission and readiness to discuss sensitive topics. Acknowledge that the conversation may be difficult but emphasize the importance of their well-being and the support available to them.
  5. Assessing Risk Factors: Alongside asking direct questions, it’s essential to assess other risk factors and protective factors for suicide and self-harm, such as mental health history, social support, and recent life events. This holistic approach provides a more comprehensive understanding of the individual’s situation.
  6. Providing Support: Regardless of the individual’s response to direct questions, it’s crucial to offer support and connect them with appropriate resources, such as mental health professionals, crisis hotlines, or support groups. Let them know they are not alone and that help is available.

While there is a potential risk that discussing suicide or self-harm could trigger distress in some individuals, avoiding these conversations altogether can be more harmful. By asking direct questions in a sensitive and supportive manner, individuals at risk can be identified and connected with the help they need, potentially saving lives. However, it’s essential to prioritize the well-being and comfort of the individual throughout the assessment process.


Effective assessment of mental health and suicidal thoughts requires asking open-ended, non-judgmental questions that encourage honest communication. It’s crucial to create a safe and supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their emotions and experiences. Avoiding stigmatizing, minimizing, or assumptive questions is essential to foster trust and facilitate meaningful dialogue. By asking the right questions, mental health professionals, caregivers, and loved ones can offer appropriate support and intervention to those in need, potentially saving lives.

You should ask open ended questions (use a subtle approach, and not direct intrusive questions that may have a trigger effect. A person who does not want to talk about their feeling may clam up or lie. Not everyone wants to share their thoughts with a stranger. Asking trigger questions could be dangerous because you could be planting a seed into someone’s head who previously did not think about it, but may do now that the seed has been sown.

#mentalhealth #mentalhealthsupport # triggerquestions #sensitivequestion #selfharm #selfharmquestions #dangerous questions #suicideprevention #psychoterapist #psychotherapy #psychology #pip #dwp

Further Reading – (Citations).


Blue Butterfly