Supporting someone feeling suicidal
Talk and listen
If you find it difficult to know where to start, you could try:
- Asking open, non-judgemental questions about their situation such as, “When did that happen?”, “How did you feel?”
- Exploring their thoughts about suicide, by asking “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “What thoughts have you had about suicide?”. This can help them talk about their feelings and can give you an understanding of their thoughts and intentions
- It’s important to use the word ‘suicide’ or being clear about asking if someone has considered ‘taking their own life’. Being direct gives the message that it’s ok to talk about suicide openly. It also avoids any ambiguity
- Asking about suicide will not make someone more likely to attempt it. By asking directly, you give someone permission to tell you how they feel. Once someone starts talking, they’ve got a better chance of discovering other options to suicide
Give them time to talk by listening and reflecting back what they have said.
It’s understandable that you may feel pressure ‘to say the right thing’, but remember by just being there and listening in a compassionate way, you are helping that person to feel less isolated and frightened.
Try not to judge
- If the person is already receiving support from mental health services, you will need to contact the team that cares for them during their normal working hours. This would be their best option for seeking help
If the person’s needs are urgent, needing immediate help from a mental health professional, then they should attend their nearest Hospital A&E department and ask for a mental health worker to see them
For non-urgent matters encourage the person to make an appointment to see their GP and they will assist them to access the most appropriate service