No-Suicide Contracts - What They are and How You Should Use Them
by Kevin Caruso
No-suicide contracts go by many names, including the following:
- No-suicide contracts
- No-suicide agreements
- No-suicide promises
- No-suicide commitments
- Suicide contracts
- Suicide agreements
- Suicide prevention contracts
- Suicide prevention agreements
- No-harm contracts
- No-harm agreements
- No-harm promises
- No-harm commitments
.and many more.
But regardless of what you choose to call them, no-suicide contracts can be useful tools in helping to prevent suicides.
Please note that no-suicide contracts are not legal documents; they are agreements that outline what a person needs to do if he or she becomes suicidal.
They have been used by clinicians in the U.S. since 1973, and are growing in popularity
among family members and friends of individuals who are or have been suicidal.
The first and most important section of no-suicide contracts is the unequivocal agreement that the individual signing the contract will, under no circumstances, die by suicide.
Then the next section lists names and phone numbers that an individual needs to call if he or she becomes suicidal.
No-suicide contracts also need to emphasize that the individual must call 911 or the local emergencey number if he or she is in immediate danger of dying by suicide;
and if the suicidal thoughts are relatively mild, then he or she will call 1-800-SUICIDE or any of the other listed numbers.
By the way, unlike traditional contracts which can be long, complex, and filled with abstrus legalese,
no-suicide contracts need to be very short and easy to understand. Anything that is not necessary
should not be put in the contract.
After the agreement has been completed, both parties sign and date the contract.
The objectives of no-suicide contracts include:
1) Establishing a mindset in which the individual realizes that it is never okay to die by suicide.
2) Giving the person a way to get help if he or she is suicidal -- most people are in deep emotional pain, very confused, and unsure of what to do when they are suicidal, so by writing down a list of things to do and people to contact, they will not have to "think things out" - the information will be right in front of them.
Anyone who has been (or is potentially) suicidal should sign a no-suicide contract with his clinician and with family or friends.
After the contract is signed, review the terms of the contract and make sure that there are no misunderstandings about what will be done if the individual becomes suicidal.
And, most importantly, make sure that the individual agrees that he or she will not die by suicide under any circumstances.
Lastly, ensure, that the no-suicide contract is kept in a secure place and is easy to find. So
if the individual who signed it becomes suicidal, he or she will be able to easily find it.
I have used innumerable suicide contracts with suicidal individuals that I have assisted
and I have found that they work very well. They certainly are not a panacea, but they are
one more tool that can be used in the prevention of suicide.
Please note that a no-suicide contract is not a substitute for assessment and treatment. All suicidal
individual should be professionally assessed and treated immediately. Again, a no-suicide contract
is one additional tool that may be used in conjunction professional treatment.
And if the individual does not want to sign it or does not like the idea of a contract, then you can
VERBALLY come to an agreement about what the person needs to do if he or she becomes suicidal. If you
can write down a list of phone numbers together, then that certainly would be a positive step. Make
sure that the person keeps the list of numbers in an accessible location.
Do not try to force anyone to sign a no-suicide contract, gently persuade the person by pointing out its
importance -- it can help save his or her life.
Again, try to come to some type of an agreement about what the person will do if he or she is suicidal, and
try to get the person to make a commitment that he or she will not die by suicide under any circumstances.
Ideally, that will be done with a no-suicide contract; otherwise, try to get the phone numbers down on
paper and reach a verbal understanding about what needs to be done when the person is suicidal.
Clinicians who use no-suicide contracts should be aware that they are not
afforded inpunity from civil action by the mere usage of the contracts. Thus the use of no-suicide
contracts as an attempt to thwart liability by clinicians is not only patently unethical
but also completely ineffectual.
And everyone should clearly understand that using a no-suicide contract in no way
guarantees that an individual will not die by suicide.
Suicide.org offers a free no-suicide contract - all you need to do is print it and fill in the blanks.
Please click below for a free Suicide.org no-suicide contract. (Please click the first
link if you are inside the United States, and please click the second link if you are outside of the United States.)
No-Suicide Contract Form (For People in the United States)
No-Suicide Contract Form (For People Outside of the United States)
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please go to the Home Page of this website for immediate help.
I love you.