Supporting someone with suicidal thoughts

Simple actions can help you be there for someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts or recovering from an attempt to take their own life.

It’s also important to know when to seek professional support, and when to step back to look after yourself.

Evidence shows asking someone if they’re suicidal can protect them. By asking someone directly about suicide, you permit them to tell you how they feel and let them know that they are not a burden.

People who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing.

If someone does let you know that they are having suicidal thoughts, always take them seriously. You don’t have to be able to solve their problems. But, if you feel you can, offer support and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling.

What does ‘being there’ for someone involved?

The needs of a person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts will depend on their circumstances. For this reason, there isn’t one simple set of steps to follow.

What you can do, however, is provide a supportive presence, free of judgment. This creates a safe space for them to feel their feelings and express themselves if they want to. Or to sit in silence and know they are cared for if they want to.

How to listen

If the person you’re with does share how they’re feeling with you, it is usually better to listen and respond with open questions – not advice or opinions.

The important thing is to let the person know you will support them, without judgment, as far as you can. You don’t need to change what they are going through for them. Remember as well that it’s okay to decide that you are no longer able to help someone and to let them know you won’t be contactable for a while.