Suicide: How do I help my friends?
If you know someone is in real and immediate danger of taking their own lives, call 000 straight away.
When we are worried about a friend or family member who may be having suicidal of course we want to help. Mixed in with that though, is the fear that we’ll be unhelpful. Here are some tips to help you start the conversations that could really help someone in their time of need:
- Approach the conversation with sympathy, patience and acceptance
- Listen more than speak
- Talk about how they are feeling, and what they are thinking about. Chances are they’ve been waiting for someone to ask – and actually wait for the answer
- Encourage them to express and explain what they are thinking and feeling. It’s ok to ask directly if they have been thinking about suicide or are feeling suicidal.
- Be prepared for this to be very difficult for both of you. They may wish to talk about death or plans/intentions for suicide. (Don’t be afraid to call Lifeline to try and digest what you’ve heard – they’re there to help you too.)
- Reaffirm how you feel about them; let them know that their life is important to you.
- Judge – anything beginning with “You should”...”Don’t you realise”, won’t be helpful. Keep listening, and try and urge them to reconsider their options for themselves
- Feel the need to “cheer them up”. Chances are that they’ve been “putting on a brave face”, and they may choose to do the same for you so that you will feel better about the conversation
- Accuse them of being selfish, cowardly or not having thought through the consequences. It is likely that someone thinking about suicide feels that the only way out, which is best for everyone, is for them not to exist. Now is not the time to make someone feel guilty, or condemned – try and find a way to show them how much they matter instead.
For more information to help you care for someone you think might be at risk of suicide, we recommend the following resources: