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
Discovering that someone you care about has tried to end their life can be a devastating experience. Understand the common feelings and reaction and learn how to support someone after a suicide attempt.
Discovering that someone you care about has tried to end their life can be a devastating experience. They will need supporting.
You may initially experience emotions such as shock and denial. Sometimes those close to the suicidal person blame themselves for what has happened, thinking, for example, “if only I’d watched them more closely”.
The fact that someone close to you or a loved one has attempted suicide is not your fault.
It is important for you to be aware of your own feelings, and avoid reacting in ways that could block communication or cause your loved one to react angrily or withdraw. Unhelpful responses include:
Often people report that they find it difficult to support someone who has attempted suicide because they feel they don’t know what to say.
It can be hard to find the right words when you’re feeling overwhelmed and emotional yourself.
Create a safe space, where the person feels loved, cared about, accepted, supported and understood. Letting the person know you support them, and asking open-ended questions, can help to open the lines of communication. The following suggestions may serve as prompts:
See our How to talk to somebody about suicide page for further information.
Unfortunately, there is still a degree of stigma surrounding suicide. This may make it difficult to talk about your loved one’s suicide attempt, as you may fear that you or they will be judged or criticised.
It is important to remember that it is up to you who you choose to tell about the situation, and how much you reveal to them.
You may find it helpful to prepare something to say when asked about the suicide attempt, such as a simple: ‘yes, it’s a difficult time for us, but we’re getting him/her the support he/she needs.’
Speaking to people who have also been in similar situations, through a carers support group, may offer you a source of non-judgemental support and understanding.
Supporting someone who has attempted suicide can be emotionally draining, stressful and exhausting. It is impossible to watch over someone 24/7.
It is vital that you look after yourself and get the support you need. This is not something you need to deal with alone.
Ensure you have adequate support systems in place yourself and identify trusted family members or friends that you can talk to. Look at identifying a local support group.
If you are finding it difficult to deal with the strain of the situation, you may also wish to consider counselling or other professional support for yourself.
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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