How do you talk to someone who may be suicidal?
Are you worried about someone who may have suicidal thoughts? Allowing them to talk about how they feel is extremely important. Here’s some advice on how to get the conversation started.Read more
Discovering that someone you care about has tried to end their life can be a devastating experience. They will need supporting. Know what to say to someone who has attempted suicide.
Discovering that someone you care about has tried to end their life can be a devastating experience. They will need supporting.
You may initially experience emotions such as shock and denial. Sometimes, those close to the suicidal person blame themselves for what has happened, thinking, “if only I’d watched them more closely”. The fact that someone close to you or a loved one has attempted suicide is not your fault.
Often people report that they find it difficult to support someone who has attempted suicide because they feel they don’t know what to say. It can be hard to find the right words when you’re feeling overwhelmed and emotional yourself.
Create a ‘safe space,’ where the person feels loved, cared about, accepted, supported and understood. Letting the person know you support them, and asking open-ended questions, can help to open the lines of communication.
The following suggestions may serve as prompts:
Supporting someone who has attempted suicide:
It is important for you to be aware of your own feelings, and avoid reacting in ways that could block communication or cause your loved one to react angrily or withdraw.
Unhelpful responses include:
Unfortunately, there is still a degree of stigma surrounding suicide. This may make it difficult to talk about your loved one’s suicide attempt, as you may fear that you or they will be judged or criticised.
It is important to remember that it is up to you who you choose to tell about the situation, and how much you reveal to them.
You may find it helpful to prepare something to say when asked about the suicide attempt, such as a simple: ‘yes, it’s a difficult time for us, but we’re getting him/her the support he/she needs.’
Speaking to people who have also been in similar situations, such as through a carers’ support group, may offer you a source of non-judgemental support and understanding.
Supporting someone who has attempted suicide can be emotionally draining, stressful and exhausting. It is impossible to watch over someone 24/7.
It is vital that you look after yourself and get the support you need. This is not something you need to deal with alone.
Ensure you have adequate support systems in place yourself. Identify trusted family members or friends that you can talk to, or join a local support group.
If you are finding it difficult to deal with the strain of the situation, you may also wish to consider counselling or other professional support for yourself. SuicideLine Victoria provides free professional, anonymous support 24 hours a day seven days a week across Victoria. Each counsellor provides specialist telephone or online counselling to anyone affected by suicide. If you are thinking about suicide, worried about someone, have lost someone to suicide and need to talk, call us on 1300 651 251.
Don’t let it build up. If you’re concerned about your emotional or mental health, call SuicideLine Victoria on 1300 651 251. Our professional counsellors are available 24/7. If it is an emergency, call 000.