Suicide is a scary topic to think about let alone discuss with someone you may be worried about. You may not be sure what to do or feel anxious about what to say to someone at risk but starting a conversation could save their life. Take a deep breath and use the following to guide you through the first steps of helping your friend, family member, or work colleague.
Express Your Concern
Honestly expressing genuine concern can show the individual they are not alone and help them feel safe to talk about their feelings and plans.
“It seems like you’ve been really low lately. I’m worried about you and wondered if we can talk about what’s going on?”
Ask direct but sensitive questions to find out if the individual has been having thoughts of suicide and whether they are in danger of acting on them. Contrary to popular belief, asking about suicide won’t put ideas in the person’s head nor is it likely to result in them doing something self-destructive.
“Have you been thinking about suicide?”
Encourage Seeking Professional Help
Building support is key by encouraging the individual to talk to loved ones as well as professionals. If you’re able, you can also go to initial appointments or be present to help them tell friends and family how they are feeling. When it comes to finding professional help, there’s a couple of options:
- Make an appointment with their GP
- Self-refer to a counsellor or psychologist – employee assistance programs could be a helpful resource
- For immediate help, you or the individual can call a 24/7 help line to talk to someone with training in the field of suicide.
- Lifeline – 13 11 14 – www.lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467 – www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- In an emergency, call 000 or take them to the nearest emergency department
If they are reluctant to seek help, you can remind them that their safety is a priority and that you alone cannot support them sufficiently.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Be yourself and be genuine
- Listen with sympathy and without judgement
- Offer reassurance and hope that help is available and that suicidal feelings are temporary
- Take their comments seriously
- Seek support yourself if the situation causes you distress
- Be argumentative, act shocked, or press your personal opinions about suicide on them
- Promise not to tell anyone – others likely need to be involved to keep the person safe
- Blame yourself for their feelings or feel wholly responsible for their wellbeing going forward