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
A person who is thinking about suicide will usually 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 suicide warning signs and taking them seriously.
A person who is thinking about suicide may exhibit suicidal warning signs. These signs can be indicators that the person is suicidal and needs help.
The following is a list of common suicidal signs that someone may give when they are feeling hopeless, helpless, anguished and overwhelmed. It is likely that a suicidal person will display a combination of these signs rather than one single sign.
Suicide prevention starts with recognising these suicidal warning signs and taking them seriously.
If you or someone you know is in immediate risk or if it is an emergency, please call 000.
A person may exhibit one or more of the suicidal warning signs. Some people might also show signs that are not on the list. If you have concerns, it’s important that you speak to the person.
The important thing to remember about suicide warning signs is that they are often unique to the individual. Not every person will react the same way. The one thing that is typically similar is that they all involve some degree of change: change from what is usual for the person.
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be difficult. If you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.
Sometimes people are worried that they might ‘put the idea of suicide into the person’s head’ if they ask about suicide. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.
You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide
Asking about suicidal thoughts
Questions you can ask the person
What you can say that helps
For more tips on talking to someone about suicide, read our resource on How to talk to somebody about suicide.
If you don’t think you can start the conversation, talk to someone who can help. It can be a family member, friend, or health professional. You can also call a helpline like Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 for advice.
If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about suicide, it is important to evaluate the risk.
Those at the highest risk will have the INTENTION to end their life; a specific PLAN, the MEANS and a TIMEFRAME.
The following questions can help you assess the person’s risk:
If the person is at high risk of suicide, seek immediate help by calling 000.
You want to encourage the person to get help as soon as possible. You can start by asking the person if they have any supports available, for example a health professional who is providing treatment or a family member who knows how they are feeling.
You can also help them to reach out to the services available in your state or territory. These include local emergency services, community health services, hospitals and helplines. Visit our webpage to find links and phone numbers for various services. Keep a list of contact details and times when the services are available.
You can also read more about developing a suicide safety plan, which is a plan to help keep the person safe.
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
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