Anyone can experience suicidal thoughts and everyone does so differently.
For some people suicidal thoughts may come and then disappear. Others might experience them over a longer period of time or have these feelings come and go in response to changing moods or life events. However, with the right support, everyone can manage suicidal feelings.
If you’re worried that someone may be struggling with feelings of suicide, it can be really hard to know how to help. The best thing you can do is to ask them directly and give them the opportunity to tell you how they are feeling.
Find a time and place where you won’t have any distractions or be interrupted, if possible. Focus on the other person and what they are saying, keep eye contact and stay engaged.
Bear in mind that the person might not be ready to open up yet. It could take them time to find the right words. Don’t rush to fill silences as they may be trying to gather their thoughts to prepare what they want to say. Be patient and don’t be afraid to ask again at another time if they aren’t ready to talk. Let them know you are always available to listen.
Tell the person why you’re worried about them. Ask them directly if they are thinking of suicide.
It can be scary to bring up suicide and you might worry about giving them the idea but that’s a myth. In fact, for many people, it is a huge relief to be asked and it gives them the opportunity to talk. It lets the person know that it’s ok to talk about thoughts of suicide and that you are there to listen.
Ask: Are you having thoughts of suicide? Have you been thinking about killing yourself?
Avoid phrases like: You’re not going to do anything silly are you? Are you thinking of ending it all?
Ask them if they have a safety plan. If they don’t, find a good time to offer to make one with them.
Hearing that someone is feeling suicidal can be shocking and upsetting, but try to stay calm and supportive. If someone is thinking about suicide, it doesn’t always mean they will act on these thoughts.
However, it is important to take them seriously and ask if they have a plan to take their own life. If they have made a plan then remain with them till you know they are safe at that time and seek support if needed.
It’s understandable to feel a range of emotions, including fear or anger. But it’s important to be supportive and encourage the person to get help. Do not blame people, judge them or make them feel guilty for the thoughts they are having.
Listening in a compassionate and non-judgemental way is one of the most helpful things you can do. Try not to change the subject or list all the positives you see in the person’s life. Just listen and try to see things from their point of view.
Reassure them that they were right to share with you and with the right support, these feelings can be managed.
Encourage them to speak to their GP, you could help them plan what they will say and even offer to go with them.
Make sure they know about helplines like Samaritans and Shout
Support them with finding services that can help them
Help them make a Safety Plan
Help them think of ways they can improve their sense of wellbeing
Supporting someone who is struggling can be difficult and distressing. It’s really important that you take care of yourself as well.
You may feel scared, upset or angry with the person who is thinking about ending their life. If you are in a close relationship with someone who has suicidal thoughts, you may have lots of other emotions like guilt or feel a sense of responsibility.
It is understandable to experience a range of feelings and it can be really helpful to talk to someone you trust. You can also call Samaritans on 116 123 or speak to you GP if you are struggling.
Zero Suicide Alliance have created free online training that will give you the skills you need to help someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts. The 20-minute training will give you the skills and confidence to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide.
Not everyone who thinks about suicide will talk about their feelings and some people will hide how they feel. If you are worried about someone, here are some of the warning signs that you can look out for.