SANE Steps: How to help when someone is suicidal

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If you believe someone is thinking about ending their life, it’s natural to feel panic or even want to avoid thinking about it. However, there are a number of practical things you can do to help . . .

Let them know you are concerned

  • Tell them that you are concerned, and that you are there to help

2. Ask if they are thinking about suicide and if they have made any plans

  • Talking about suicide will not make them take action
  • Asking shows that you care
  • Asking will help them talk about their feelings and plans – the first step to getting help.

3. Take action to get help now

  • Tell them that there are other options to suicide
  • Don’t agree to keep their suicidal thoughts or plans a secret
  • Don’t assume they will get better without help or that they will seek help on their own.

    If the person is thinking about suicide, encourage them to

  • Make an appointment with a GP - offer for someone to go along with them
  • Contact a counsellor or employee assistance program, family member or friend
  • Contact a specialist Helpline for information and advice.

    If they have made a plan to end their life

  • Check if they are able to carry out this plan. Do they have a time, place or method?
  • Do what you can to keep them safe by removing access to items.
  • Contact the Psychiatric Emergency Team at the local hospital and the police on 000: report that the person is suicidal, has made a plan, and you fear for their safety.

4. Take care of yourself too

  • Look after yourself - it is emotionally demanding to support someone who is suicidal
  • Find someone to talk things over with:  family, friends, others or a Helpline.

Factors associated with higher risk of suicide include:

  • Talking about feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Being socially isolated
  • Having a recent loss – relationship, death, job
  • Making a previous suicide attempt
  • Having a friend, family member or work colleague who has died by suicide
  • Having a mental illness
  • Behaving in a risky manner – drugs, alcohol abuse, driving recklessly.

Where to call for help

  • Immediate assistance
    Police: 000
    Local hospital Psychiatric Emergency Team
  • Telephone counselling
    Lifeline 13 11 14
    Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467
    Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
  • Information and advice
    1800 18 SANE (7263)
    9-5 weekdays EST. Request free InfoPack 24 hours.

How do I find out more?

SANE Australia also produces a range of easy-to-read publications and multimedia resources on mental illness.

For more information see other SANE Factsheets and:

  •  SANE Guide to Staying Alive - Provides practical step-by step hints and advice for dealing with suicidal thoughts and behaviour when there is mental illness.
  • SANE Guide to Depression - Helps people diagnosed with depression and their family and friends by explaining what it means to have depression, the treatmentsavailable and what a person can do to help themselves.
  •  SANE Guide for Families - Explains how to handle common issues associated with being a carer such as developing a positive attitude, looking after yourselfand getting help.

To order visit the SANE Bookshop at or call 1800 18 SANE (7263).

SANE Australia . . . SANE Steps: How to help when someone is suicidal

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This Factsheet may be freely downloaded, copied and distributed on condition no change is made to the content. SANE Australia is not responsible for any actions taken as a result of information or opinions contained in the Factsheet. [Version English, 2014)