Supporting a Trans Friend in Crisis: What you can do instead of calling 911

Supporting a Trans Friend in Crisis: What you can do instead of calling 911

A sad non-binary person wiping away a tear.


  • Your friend told you for a reason. They trust you to be there, so listen deeply and hear what they say.
  • Before suggesting resources or next steps, listen to understand. Practice active, reflective listening without trying to “fix” anything.
  • Acknowledge and repeat what you are hearing to them. Phrases like “I can understand why you feel that way” and “What I am hearing is . . .” can feel supportive.

It’s OK to be alarmed, but don’t panic.

  • Suicidality has a deep stigma around it, but it is normal for trans folks who live in a society that marginalizes them to struggle with suicidality.
  • Often, all we need is for someone to listen while we talk through suicidality the same way they’d listen to any other serious topic.
  • Harm reduction: Sometimes your friend might have coping mechanisms that feel scary to you, like substance use or self-injury. Talk to your friend about how they can do the things that work for them more safely: not drinking and driving, having trusted people with them, not sharing needles, being mindful of where and how they self-injure, etc. Supporting each other without judgment is key.

Understand their circumstances.

  • We’re often told that suicidality is irrational. It isn’t—when your material conditions are really bad, suicidality can feel as logical as jumping from a burning building.
  • Understand what got your friend to this place and why they might not want to live.
  • Ask your friend relevant, open-ended questions: What would be helpful from you? Do they want to talk about what’s going on, or would they prefer a distraction? Someone to sit with quietly? Something else? Your friend might not know, and that’s ok too.

Put the blame where it belongs.

  • Society mistreats trans people. Remind your friend that what happened to them is unjust and that society is messed up.
  • If your friend is dealing with bigotry or rejection, be their champion. Now is not the time to play devil’s advocate for why their parents might misgender them or tell your friend that their transition is hard for their partner too. (There’s never a great time for that, actually.)

Remind them that they’re welcome to call us.

  • You can offer to help them call us.
  • Trans Lifeline’s operators will never call 911 on your friend without their explicit request.
  • Trans Lifeline’s operators are trans and are trained to provide peer support and resources to trans people in crisis.
  • There is nothing they will have to provide, answer, or prepare for to call us. They guide the conversation.

Take care of yourself.

  • Call us for support. We can be there for you as you support your friend, or make sure you get a callback from our Friends & Family service.
  • Make sure you’re using your own support network if you’re stressed out.
  • Remember what is and isn’t your job: you can be there for your friend, but you can’t necessarily change how they’re feeling or what they need to do.

Respect your friend’s privacy.

  • It can be tempting to ask another friend or family member for help. Doing this makes it harder for your friend to confide in you. Only bring other people in if your friend is OK with it.
  • If your friend is considering going to the hospital, make sure they know what that can mean.
  • If your friend says they want to go to the hospital, bring them there yourself or get a ride. If you can’t, you can try calling 911 with your friend’s consent and be intentional about what you say. For example, if your friend has taken something to attempt, you can say “my friend is sick and can’t breathe well / can’t keep food down,” rather than describing them as in crisis. If they have physical symptoms, describe those. This increases the likelihood of just an ambulance coming, and not the police.

Train yourself.

  • Become a volunteer operator on our Hotline if you are trans.
  • Familiarize yourself with local resources for trans people.
  • If you support a trans person, become a Family & Friends line volunteer operator (open to cis and trans people).
  • Volunteers receive comprehensive training and support to show up for people experiencing crises.


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