If you think that someone may be feeling suicidal, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.
You may feel uncomfortable talking about suicidal feelings. You may not know what to say. This is entirely normal and understandable.
It might help to:
- let them know that you care about them and that they are not alone,
- empathise with them. You could say something like, ‘I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand,’
- be non-judgemental. Don’t criticise or blame them,
- repeat their words back to them in your own words. This shows that you are listening. Repeating information can also make sure that you have understood them properly,
- ask about their reasons for living and dying and listen to their answers. Try to explore their reasons for living in more detail,
- ask if they have felt like this before. If so, ask how their feelings changed last time,
- reassure them that they will not feel this way forever,
- encourage them to focus on getting through the day rather than focusing on the future,
- ask them if they have a plan for ending their life. Ask what the plan is,
- encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with. Such as help from a doctor or counsellor, or support through a charity such as the Samaritans,
- follow up any commitments that you agree to,
- make sure someone is with them if they are in immediate danger,
- try to get professional help for the person feeling suicidal, and
- get support for yourself.
Remember that you don’t need to find an answer, or even to completely understand why they feel the way they do. Listening to what they have to say will at least let them know you care.
If you are not sure that someone is feeling suicidal, ask:
- “Are you thinking about suicide?” or
- “Are you having thoughts of ending your life?”
These questions are direct. It is better to address the person’s feelings directly rather than avoiding the issue. Asking about suicide won’t make it more likely to happen.