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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

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 and allows them to talk about their feelings and plans – the first step to getting help.

Take action to get help now

  • Tell them that there are other options than 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

Encourage them to get professional help

  • Make an appointment with a GP and 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 — they're listed below

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?
  • Remove access to objects they could use to hurt themselves
  • Contact the psychiatric emergency team at your local hospital
  • Call 000. Tell them the person is suicidal, has made a plan, and you fear for their safety

Take care of yourself

  • It is emotionally demanding to support someone who is suicidal. Find someone to talk things over with, like your family, friends or a helpline.
  • Factors associated with higher risk of suicide

    These include:

    • Talking about feeling hopeless and helpless
    • Being socially isolated
    • Having a recent loss — relationship, death, job
    • Having made 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


    Crisis resources

    Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

    Lifeline (24-hour crisis telephone counselling) 13 11 14

    Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467

    Call 000 for urgent medical attention or police attendance

    Information and advice on mental illness

    SANE Help Centre 1800 18 SANE (7263)

    Related SANE resources

    Get Help

    How to help in a crisis

Related information

The SANE Guide to Depression helps people diagnosed with Depression and their family and friends by explaining the causes, symptoms, available treatments and what a person can do to help themselves.

The Lessons for Life research study and video by SANE Australia explores the experiences of people who have attempted to take their own lives, and what we can learn from them to save others now and in the future.

The SANE Families and Mental Illness DVD Kit is available for purchase. It features carers talking frankly about the impact of mental illness on their lives and the importance finding support, and looking after themselves.

Last updated: 20 September, 2016
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