Talking to a friend or family member about their thoughts of suicide can be very difficult.
Don't 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 won't give the person the idea to take their own life. Any thoughts of suicide the person might have will have developed over time. By asking the question, you will give the person an opportunity to open up and to talk.
If the answer is yes, don't panic. The best you can do is to listen to them without judgement or blame.
Listen and understand
Give the person space to explain what is going on for them and how they feel about it.
Avoid responses which reject how they are feeling or minimise how they feel. Do not try to change their view of their situation without listening.
Take it seriously
Show that you believe the person and that you take any talk of suicide seriously. Most people do not talk or think about suicide lightly. There may be a serious risk of death.
Keep in mind that nothing is going to change quickly. It will have taken a long time for the person to get to this place. It will take more time to build up the supports and resources they need.
Even once you have linked in with support services, the person's risk of suicide can remain for some time.
When someone is feeling suicidal, they can withdraw from everyone. Being connected to other people who care about them will reduce the person's suicidal feelings.
The person will need help and support from others, not just you.
Think about who else can help, for example:
- other family members
- work colleagues
If there is an immediate risk that the person will harm themselves, they will need emergency help.
If there is no immediate risk of danger, the person will still need other professional supports.
Be aware of your own reactions
When a person tells you they are thinking about suicide, it is normal to react with anger or fear.
Put your feelings aside while you respond to the person's needs. Try to remain as calm and non-judgemental as possible.
Supporting a person 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.
- talk to friends and family
- talk to someone on a support helpline
- talk to your own GP
- join a support group for carers, friends and family
- take some time out to concentrate on yourself