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You can help someone feeling suicidal

It is distressing to realise that someone close to you may be considering taking their own life. It is often difficult to know what to say or what to do. People need to know that it is OK to Talk.

Below are some suggestions of how you might support someone you know who may be at risk:

  • Stay calm and ask the person if they are thinking of suicide. People are often fearful that asking may introduce the thought to the person. This is a myth.
  • Spend time with the person, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and to get further professional advice;
  • Don’t agree to keep it a secret. The person’s safety is your main concern. You may need to talk to someone else to make sure that the person is safe.

Remember, most people who consider taking their own life get through the crisis.

What to do if someone has attempted suicide

  • Get medical help immediately – call 000.
  • Encourage the person to receive ongoing support – People who have attempted suicide have a much higher risk of attempting suicide again in the days, weeks and months following.
  • Be aware of your own reactions – supporting someone at risk of suicide is stressful. Take care of yourself by taking time out to relax and do things you enjoy.

What to do for those left behind

People are often prepared for the deaths of elderly parents, friends or relatives who have a serious illness, but we are rarely prepared for the impact of sudden death. We are usually even less prepared for the suicide of someone we know.

Call Lifeline Australia for 24hr crisis support on 13 11 14.

Suicide often leaves behind questions of “why?” or “what could I have done?”

Those left behind may experience emotions including shock, disbelief, denial, regret, anger, shame, sadness, rejection, yearning, despair, blaming, detachment, loss of confidence and guilt. This range of reactions emphasises the important and sometimes difficult task we all have when we want to help someone who is bereaved by suicide.

Frequently we don’t know how to begin a conversation or know what to do or say. People bereaved by suicide often tell how they felt stigmatized by those closest to them not discussing what has happened. When their friends have finally spoken they very often say “I didn’t know what to say” or “I didn’t know what to do”.

It’s OK to Talk

You can best support a person bereaved by suicide:

  • Listen to the story or sit with them in their pain - sometimes this may be a time of silence;
  • Listen without judging - you cannot change what has happened or take away the pain but you can help by being there, caring and listening;
  • Be prepared for any and all reactions;
  • Keep in touch on a regular basis, don’t abandon those mourning this loss. There may be times when your offers are refused, try again later;
  • Offer to do something practical such as making a meal, doing the shopping or washing; and
  • Give people time to begin their healing.

Some things to avoid:

  • Don’t ask for details about the death;
  • Don’t blame the person who has died or give reasons for the suicide;
  • Don’t avoid talking about the person who has died;
  • Don’t make judgements or assumptions about the person who died; and
  • Don’t use cliches such as “You must be strong” and “Life goes on”.


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Page last updated on: 17 Oct 2018