Updated: Dec 20, 2022
If you think that someone may be feeling suicidal -
Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.
Remember that you don’t need to find an answer, or even to completely understand why they feel the way they do.
Listening to what they have to say will at least let them know you care.
It might help to:
Let the person know that you care about them and that they are not alone,
Make sure someone is with them if they are in immediate danger,
Try to get professional help for the person feeling suicidal and support for yourself.
You could reassure the person that they will not feel this way forever and that they can get help, including help from a doctor.
If you are not sure that someone is feeling suicidal, you could ask:
“Are you thinking about suicide?” or
“Are you having thoughts of ending your life?”
These questions might seem direct but it is better to address the person’s feelings directly than to skirt around the issue.
Most people do not have this sort of conversation every day and so you may feel uncomfortable and unsure of what to say.
This is entirely normal and understandable. However, you can help by being calm, supportive and non-judgmental.
Try to see the world as the person sees it. Try to do this without judging, criticising or blaming them.
What won’t help someone who is feeling suicidal?
When someone tells you that they are feeling suicidal you may feel like trying to cheer the person up or telling them that they have no reason to feel like that. These are understandable responses but may not help that much.
Someone who wants to end their life will not want:
To feel rejected by friends, family or colleagues,
People to change the subject when they are talking about how they feel,
To be told that they are wrong or silly,
To be patronised, criticised or analysed,
To be told to cheer up or ‘snap out of it’,
To be told that they should be grateful for having such a good life.
Reassurance, respect and support can help a person recover at this difficult time.
What if someone is saying they want to end their life now?
Talking about suicide can be a plea for help. Don’t assume that because someone has talked about suicide they won’t try to take their own life. You should always take this seriously.
If you talk to someone about their feelings and it seems as though they want to end their life soon, try to keep them safe in the short term. It is unlikely that you will be able to make their feelings go away, but you can help by making them see that there are some things worth living for.
It might help to:
Be supportive and accept what they are telling you,
Ask whether they are thinking about ending their life now or soon,
Try and get a better understanding of why,
Ask about their reasons for living and dying and listen to their answers. Try to explore their reasons for living in more detail,
Ask whether they have tried to kill themselves before,
Ask if they have a plan for how they would do it in the future,
Try to make them safe and be open to making reasonable steps to help them,
Follow up any commitments that you agree to.
If you live with the person, you could also try to remove things from the house that they could use to take their own life.
The kind of thing you could try to remove depends on the person’s immediate plan for taking their own life. They could include sharp objects and knives, cleaning products, medicines and belts. If the person is in crisis, do not leave them alone.
Learn why someone would want to commit suicide - Here.
Learn what the warning signs are for someone who is feeling suicidal - Here.
Learn what services are available for someone who is suicidal - Here.
Mental illness and suicide, learn the facts - Here.
Self harm and suicide, learn if they are related - Here