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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.
  • Asking will help them 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 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 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.

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.

Take care of yourself too

Look after yourself – it is emotionally demanding to support someone who is suicidal. Also find someone to talk things over with, such as 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
  • 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

Information and advice

See also Get Help and How to help in a crisis.

How do I find out more?

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

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: 1 July, 2016

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