Supporting someone who might be suicidal

Talking to someone about their thoughts of suicide can be very difficult.

Do not be afraid to ask a direct question using clear language. For example, "You seem very low and I'm worried about you. Are you thinking of ending your life?"

Asking such a direct question will not give them the idea to take their own life. Any thoughts of suicide they may have will have developed over time. By asking the question, you will give them the chance to open up and to talk.

If the answer is yes, do not panic. The best you can do is to listen to them without judgement or blame.

Listen and understand

Give them space to explain what is going on and how they feel about it.

Avoid responses which reject how they are feeling or make light of how they feel. Do not try to change their view of their situation without listening.

Being a good listener

Take it seriously

Show that you believe them. Take any talk of suicide seriously. Most people do not talk or think about suicide lightly. There may be a serious risk of death.

What to say to someone who is going through a tough time

Be realistic

Nothing is going to change quickly. It will have taken a long time for them to get to this point. It will take more time to build up the supports and resources they need.

Even when you have linked up with support services, their risk of suicide can remain for some time.

Stay connected

When someone is feeling suicidal, they can withdraw from everyone. Being connected to other people who care about them will reduce their suicidal feelings.

Get help

They will need help and support from others, not just you.

Think about who else can help, for example:

  • family members
  • friends
  • people they work with

If there is an immediate risk that they will harm themselves, they will need emergency help.

What to do if someone is attempting suicide

If there is no immediate risk of danger, the person will still need other professional supports.

Mental health support and services

Support services may decide that the person is not at risk for the moment. But you can still return to your GP or emergency department if the situation changes.

Be aware of your own reactions

If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, it is normal to react with anger or fear.

Try to put your feelings aside while you respond to their needs. Try to remain as calm and non-judgemental as possible.

Mind yourself

Supporting someone who is suicidal is likely to be a stressful time in your life. It is a time when you might need to support yourself too.

You could:

  • talk to friends and family
  • talk to someone on a support helpline
  • talk to your GP
  • join a support group for carers, friends and family
  • take some time out to concentrate on yourself

Supports for carers, family and friends

Page last reviewed: 1 September 2022
Next review due: 1 September 2025