How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal

Suicide. It’s a topic that many people shy away from talking about. But with eight people on average killing themselves every day in Australia – and many more attempting to do so – it’s a conversation we need to be having. It’s important to know how to identify suicidal tendencies and how to respond to them. Read our blog on recognising the symptoms, and follow these simple steps to support someone who might be contemplating killing themselves…

Share your concerns and ask how they’re feeling

The first step to supporting someone who might be suicidal is bringing up your concerns with them. Tell them what behaviours in particular have you worried, as this will give you both an opportunity to discuss how they’re struggling. For example, you might want to say “I’ve noticed you’ve been distant lately. You seem sad and withdrawn. Are you depressed?”

Once the discussion has opened up, you should directly ask them “are you thinking about killing yourself?” While talking about suicide can be uncomfortable, being direct ensures there is no room for miscommunication. If you ask a vague question, you might get an equally vague response – and when someone may be contemplating suicide, this isn’t a risk you want to take.

If they tell you that they are or have thought about suicide in the past, it can be helpful to assist them in filling out a Crisis Plan. This plan will allow them to write down important information and positive reminders that they can then look back on if they are ever considering killing themselves again. Tell them that their safety is important to you and creating a Crisis Plan will provide an extra piece of support.

Click here to download Ok To Talk’s Crisis Plan.

Listen to what they have to say 

The next step is to give them the space to talk openly about how they’re feeling. Tell them that you’re listening and that you want to know what they’re struggling with. Be careful not to offer advice or ‘solutions’ to the problems they’re facing. This is important as many people who are struggling with their mental health or feeling suicidal often need someone who simply wants to listen. In this situation, a listening ear is the best way to lend your support.

Guide them towards help

When someone is thinking about or planning suicide, it’s important that they get professional help. While offering your support is helpful, a psychologist will be able to teach them effective ways to deal with their mental health problems.

You can start this conversation by asking them whether they have considered seeing a psychologist. If they have, tell them that Ok To Talk can match them with someone suited to their needs. Some people may not be ready or willing to get professional help. Regardless, you should try to pass on the details of support services.

Here are some helpful resources and the situations in which they should be contacted:

000:                      When someone has tried or is about to try to commit suicide.

SuicideLine:     When someone is thinking about killing themselves but don’t have the plans or the means to right now.

Lifeline:              When someone isn’t coping and really needs someone to talk to.