Helpline 1800 18 7263

SANE Steps - How to help when someone is suicidal

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  • Factsheet

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 . . .

1. 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.

See also 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.

For more information see other SANE Factsheets and:

Lessons for Life

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

The SANE Families and Mental Illness DVD Kit features carers talking about their experience. It explains the importance of dealing with your own reactions to mental illness, finding support, and looks at what needs to be done to plan ahead.

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.

SANE Steps podcast

The facts about how to help when someone is suicidal.