Worried someone is suicidal - how to start the conversation

Realising that someone you care about may be thinking about suicide can come as a shock. It can be hard to understand why they feel this way and what has led up to this point. But it is important you start the conversation.

If you are worried, you should speak up and talk to your family member or friend about their feelings. This is of course not so easy. Many people think that if you ask about suicide, you put the idea into the person’s head. This isn’t true – by talking to them, you are letting them know that you are there to support them. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care.


How to start the conversation

Allow the person space to talk and share their feelings.

You can start by asking:

  • I’ve noticed that you haven’t been yourself lately. Is everything OK with you?
  • I am worried about you. I’m wondering if we can talk about what’s troubling you?
  • I saw your post on Facebook. Do you want to talk?
  • You seem really sad lately. I’m worried that you may be thinking about suicide. Can we talk about this?

You want to let the person know that you are concerned about them, you are there to listen, and that you care about them. Give the person space to share their feelings and worries with you.


Follow up questions

Once the conversation has started, make sure you listen without making any judgment.

You can ask the following questions:

  • How can I support you right now?
  • How long have you been feeling this way?

And you can also provide reassurance:

  • I am here for you.
  • You are not alone.
  • I may not be able to understand how you feel exactly, but I care about you and want to help.


Assessing the risk

If the person says that they are seriously thinking about suicide and have a plan, you should seek professional help as soon as possible. Let them know that you can’t keep quiet about their plan as you are concerned about their safety. Do not try to deal with the situation alone. You can call one of our counsellors at Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 for advice.

If the person is at immediate risk and may harm themselves or someone else, call 000.

If the risk level is low and the person does not wish to talk to a professional at this time, find out other potential supports such as family and friends. The number one priority is to keep the person safe.


Suicide Call Back Service counsellors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call now on 1300 659 467.

If it is an emergency, dial 000.