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What to do if someone you know is feeling suicidal?

With September marking the yearly R U OK Day and World Suicide Prevention Day, it seemed vital for us to provide some helpful tips for assisting those around us who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. We can often feel stuck with how we can help in these situations, however, there are a few practical steps we can take, that can help save a life.  

Step One: look out for warning signs

Look out for warning signs that suggest someone might be at risk:

  • Talking about suicide.

  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or burdensomeness.

  • Withdrawing and isolating from social contact.

  • Getting the means that may aid in taking their own life.

  • Having someone in their life who has died by suicide.

  • Saying goodbye as if they won’t be seen again.

  • Giving away all their possessions.

  • Engaging in self-destructive or risky behaviour, such as excessive drinking or drug use, or driving recklessly.

Step two: asking and offering support

Asking and offering support:

  • Let the person know you are concerned by approaching them calmly, in a caring manner, and describing what you have noticed that makes you worried.

  • Ask directly if they are having thoughts about suicide.

This may feel uncomfortable, but simply asking is not increasing the risk for the person, it is providing the opportunity for the person to say how they are really going.

  • Listen without judgment.

  • Empathise with their position.

  • Initially, avoid offering solutions or trying to convince them they should not be having these thoughts.

Step three: identify if they have a plan

Identify if the person has made a suicide plan:

  • Do they have a time, place, or method in mind?

  • Help them identify reasons for staying alive to dismantle this plan.

Step four: encourage the person to get professional help

Encourage the person to get professional help:

  • Encourage and support them to make an appointment with a GP or a mental health professional.

  • Contact a crisis support line:

    • Mental Health Emergency Response Line – 1300 555 788

    • Lifeline – 13 11 14

    • Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636

    • Suicide Callback Service – 1300 659 467

    • Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800

  • If the person is in immediate danger, encourage and support them to attend the nearest Emergency Department or call 000 for assistance.

Step five: take care of yourself

Take care of yourself. It can be emotionally challenging to support a person in a suicide crisis. Make sure you are properly looking after yourself by sharing your experience with supportive people in your life, and continuing to do things you enjoy.

Written by Nina Loncarevic  Clinical Psychology Registrar

More information

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you care for and would like to learn more about how to help someone who is feeling suicidal, or to book an appointment with Nina Loncarevic or another one of our experienced clinical psychologists, contact our friendly client team by calling 6143 4499 or email via our contact page.

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