People tell us that it was really difficult to ask someone they care about if they were having thoughts of suicide, but they never regretted it. Look out for changes in their physical or emotional behaviour, and consider whether they've recently experienced any major life changes. Be aware of the warning signs and start a conversation with them about things you’ve noticed.
It is important to understand that someone you know may not open up about how they are feeling due to a sense of being a burden on those around them. However, it’s still important to check in with them and show your concern. On this page we have included some tips on how to talk to someone you care about, especially if you have noticed changes in them you are worried about or if you think they may be feeling suicidal.
If you’re worried that someone you know is suicidal, it’s okay to ask them directly. A question such as ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts?’ might be helpful. This might sound confronting, but it is important to be clear even though it might be uncomfortable.
Acknowledge fears or concerns
When people are struggling it is common for them to feel that the whole world is against them. The first step in encouraging someone to accept help is to acknowledge their fears, even if you may not feel the causes are real.
Encourage open communication
People who are distressed or having suicidal thoughts often put on a brave face to cover how they feel. That is why it is important to reassure them you value their honesty and will listen and not judge them, regardless of how they are feeling.
Emphasise that having suicidal thoughts is not something to be ashamed of. It is something experienced by many people and talking about it does not increase the risk of someone taking their own life.
Maintain a sense of hope
When people feel suicidal it can seem like nothing will ever feel good again. It may be helpful to tell them something like ‘It may be hard now, but I’ll support you until things are better’. Remind them that even small steps matter, and they are already making a good start by talking to you.
Getting professional help
If the person isn’t already linked with professional support, encourage them to seek help. A health professional can help explore a person’s suicidal thoughts and help them get through tough times.
Check out the information on this page for support services.
Offer to assist in seeking help
When people are suicidal, they can often feel nothing will help and are therefore unmotivated to seek help. Offering to assist someone to find help – by making an appointment or driving them there, for example – can make it seem that little bit easier.
Keep checking in
If you are comfortable doing so, check in with the person regularly. Let them know that you are happy to talk with them about how they are feeling, and how professional support is going.
Find support for yourself
When people feel suicidal, it is naturally very distressing for family and friends too.
Many people don’t realise that suicide crisis lines also welcome calls from families and carers. People are ready to talk with you about how to best approach a person or situation. You’re not alone in navigating your way through supporting someone you know.
Make sure you make time to care for yourself by doing things that give you a break or give you pleasure. If you are feeling particularly stressed, access your own professional support or counselling. Some people also find it helpful to contact a carer support organisation and talk to other carers who might understand how you are feeling.
Supporting someone after a suicide attempt
Having someone you care about attempt suicide can be incredibly traumatic. You might respond with anger, fear, guilt or sadness.
This resource provides practical information about the impact a suicide attempt can have. It talks about why people attempt suicide, how they might be feeling and, importantly, what you can do to provide support.
“People tell us that it was really difficult to ask someone they care about if they were having thoughts of suicide, but they never regretted it.”
- SANE Australia Clinical Director
Find support services
If you or someone you know feels unsafe, there are a number of local and national services that can help you.