How to talk to somebody about suicide
Discussing suicidal thoughts may seem like a daunting prospect. Learn to shape these discussions with clear and practical advice.Read more
Discussing suicidal thoughts may seem like a daunting prospect. Learn to shape these discussions with clear and practical advice.
Discussing suicide and talking about suicidal thoughts with someone you’re concerned about may seem like a daunting prospect. It can be hard to understand why they feel this way and what has led up to this point. You may feel uncomfortable and ask yourself, how can I talk to them about it? But it is important to start the conversation.
This resource is designed to help you shape these discussions.
Always allow the person the space to talk.
It is important to listen to the person’s struggles and feelings and let them know that you care about them.
A person who is thinking about taking their life is usually feeling overwhelming mental anguish and pain (this can be emotional, psychological or social). Allowing them the space and opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings can help a person thinking of suicide to feel supported. This is an opportunity to assist them in viewing other perspectives.
If you or someone you know is in immediate risk or if it is an emergency, please call 000.
It is important to ask the person directly if they are feeling suicidal or if they have been thinking about suicide.
It is a myth that talking directly about suicide will put the idea in someone’s head. Instead, discussing suicide openly and honestly about what you’ve noticed and genuinely asking how they are feeling can give the person the opportunity to take the first steps towards getting the help they need. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing you care.
Here are some ideas to help you start the conversation:
It is important that you aren’t flippant or use slang words to describe suicide.
Try to stay calm during the conversation. You may experience strong feelings like shock, guilt, anger or denial. But it’s important to stay calm, non-judgmental and in control of your thoughts, emotions and actions.
Continue to be observant for any warning signs of possible suicidal risk. Trust your instincts and follow through on any concerns or suspicions you have, don’t be afraid to check in with them again if you notice any suicide warning signs.
Ensure that those in the person’s support network know about your concerns and the changes you’ve noticed and are also looking out for any other warning signs.
Make yourself available and reassure the person that you will listen when they are ready to talk.
Whilst discussing suicide, if the person reveals that they are thinking of suicide and have a plan, it is critical that you seek professional help as soon as possible.
Don’t keep or agree to secrets that could result in the person attempting suicide. You are not an expert in mental health or suicide prevention, so you should not shoulder the burden alone.
It is important to be firm about your intentions to involve others if they won’t. Tell them that you are taking what they say very seriously and that you can’t keep this information to yourself.
Don’t try to deal with this situation alone, encourage the person to get professional help and support them to do so. It is a good idea to involve the suicidal person in this process as much as possible, as it is important for them to take an active role in resolving their suicidal crisis.
If the person doesn’t want to talk to a professional and their immediate risk is lower, work with them to identify other supports such as parents, family members, friends, teachers or colleagues.
It is important for the suicidal person to build support around them.
You can call a mental health service or helpline for support. Suicide Call Back Service counsellors talk to thousands of people who do not experience suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts) of their own but are affected by suicide. The service is available 24/7 and is staffed by professional counsellors. You can call 1300 659 467 for support.
Another important thing you can do to support someone who is feeling suicidal is to help them create a safety plan.
If they don’t agree to seek professional help and the immediate risk is high, you will need to contact emergency services on their behalf regardless of their wishes.
If you are with someone who is in immediate danger, or concerned for their safety in any way:
If you are worried about someone, and need someone to talk to, call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 to speak to a counsellor.
If it is an emergency, please call 000.
A person who is thinking about suicide may give some clues or suicide signs to those around them that indicate they are distressed. These are often referred to as suicide warning signs. Suicide prevention starts with recognising these suicidal warning signs and taking them seriously.Read more
Depression is not always obvious and there can be many signs something is wrong. If you’re worried about your friend, here are some things to look out for.Read more