What should you do if you’re worried someone might be suicidal?
Are you worried about a loved one, colleague, or someone you know might be suicidal? Being frightened, torn and lost on how to handle the situation is normal.
Dr Miriam Dookhun, Nightingale Hospital’s Lead Therapist for General Psychiatry shares these tips on how to approach the situation, as well as warning signs and risk factors to look for.
- Check-in and ask the person how they are feeling, try to ask the tough question of ‘are you having suicidal thoughts?’. Ask them if they have a plan, and what the plan is if they do have one. Contrary to the belief that asking about suicide might indirectly encourage pursue suicide, research shows that speaking directly about this topic decreases the likelihood of an individual carrying out their plans.
- Try to stay calm and let them know you are listening. Don’t promise to keep a secret, don’t lecture them about life and the value of it. Don’t feel responsible to help them to manage on your own.
- Suicidal thoughts do not necessarily mean there is a desire to die, often they are about a desire to make emotional pain end. Offer genuine support to help to ease the pain.
- Feeling connected to others can help, as suicidal thoughts can be isolating. Connections with others, and knowing other people care can lead to hope, as well as help people to access support.
- It’s okay if you don’t know how to help someone feeling suicidal, rather than trying to problem-solve and find solutions, listen, offer compassion, and encourage seeking professional support.
Warning signs someone may be suicidal
- The person feels a sense of hopelessness or no hope for the future
- Feelings of isolation or loneliness
- They have a negative view of themselves
- They make threats about suicide
- They have a substance abuse problem
- They are giving personal possessions away
- They may be making funeral arrangements
- They might be engaging in risky or self-harming behaviours e.g. cutting
- They frequently talk about death
- They feel like a burden to others
- They are displaying aggression and irritability
- There are drastic changes in their mood and behaviour
Risk factors of suicide include
- Previous suicide attempts
- Having a friend or family member that died by suicide
- Relationship problems
- History of substance abuse
- Physical illness or disability
- Being bullied
- Recent bereavement
- Access to harmful means
- History of a mental health condition
- Getting affairs in order/making/updating a will
Help and resources for suicidal thoughts
It’s important that you direct the individual to services that are able to offer professional help.
A few services are listed below, and most offer 24/7 free assistance.
- Call or visit their local A&E if they are in immediate danger
- Encourage them to book an urgent appointment with their GP
- Samaritans – For everyone
- Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)