I'm worried about someone
If you feel someone is at immediate risk of suicide call 999 and ask for an ambulance. If you think someone is having suicidal thoughts you can learn to recognise the warning signs and understand how you can help them.
We know that up to 75% of suicides are by people who've not had specialist mental health support in the year before their death.
It's important to remember suicide is a complicated issue and often, there are many reasons why someone decides to take their own life or may be feeling suicidal. People who are feeling suicidal may not know why they're feeling this way and this can make it very difficult for them to talk about their thoughts and feelings.
It may not always be obvious that someone is thinking about taking their own life. Warning signs include changes in:
- threatening to hurt of kill themselves
- appearing more tearful
- finding everyday tasks and routine difficult
- isolating themselves from those around them
- reckless behaviour such as drug or alcohol use
- neglect of personal appearance
- giving away possessions or getting affairs in order (making a will)
- talking or writing about:
- death, dying or suicide
- feeling hopeless
- feeling trapped, saying they can't see a way out of their current situation
- saying goodbye – to friends and family as if it's the last time they'll see them
- making a plan of how they would kill themselves
- not thinking about the future such as planning ahead or getting exciting about upcoming events
- mood swings
- loss of interest in most things, including those they would normally enjoy doing
If someone has made a previous suicide attempt and you spot some warning signs, it may indicate that they may try again.
Start a conversation
If someone is showing some warning signs they may or may not be feeling suicidal. You can find out more about how they're feeling by starting a conversation - make a connection with the person you are concerned about.
Try and understand their state of mind
Once you've started a conversation, ask them how they're feeling and try to build a picture of what is going on in their mind and their life right now. You could do this by saying:
'I've noticed you've been quite quiet lately, that's not like you. Is everything ok?'
They talk and you listen
Let them talk to you about what is going on and how it's making them feel, ask questions to understand the situation more but avoid relating to them by saying things like:
- 'We all have bad days, the other day i…'
- 'I wouldn't let something like that bother me..'
Whatever is going on is a big worry or problem for them and it's how it's making them feel you need to consider.
Ask the suicide question
People worry that by asking someone if they feel suicidal, it'll put the idea of suicide in their head, this is not the case. By asking the question you're showing them that you're supportive and you're giving them the chance to talk about their thoughts and feelings. This may be a relief for them.
Remember, if you have even the slightest feeling they may be feeling hopeless and suicidal, you should ask them.
Don't ask the question in a negative way, like:
- 'You're not going to do anything stupid are you?
Do ask clearly and calmly, like:
- 'I'm hearing what you're saying and it sounds like you have a lot going on at the moment, people who feel this way may have thoughts of suicide. Have you had any thoughts of suicide?'
Let them answer
If you feel they've not answered your question, ask them again, you need to be sure. If they reply saying yes, stay calm and listen to them, don't judge, act shocked or annoyed with them, don't try to tell them everything they have to lose.
You must remember to trust your gut, saying something is better than saying nothing and wondering if you should have.
If they tell you they have been thinking about suicide it's important you ask if they know how they plan to attempt suicide. You can ask by saying:
- 'Have you thought about how you'd take your own life?'
- 'Do you know how you'll attempt suicide?'
- When do you plan to do it?
Many adults will at some point in their lives have suicidal thoughts and feelings but they don't act on them. Having a suicide plan and the means to fulfil their plan puts someone at high risk and in need urgent help from their GP if possible or 999.
Help and support
Having someone tell you that they're suicidal can be quite a scary situation for you; here are some tips to allow you to help them.
- Remember to stay calm and make sure they're not left on their own.
- Encourage them to talk about their thoughts and feelings. If they don't want to talk to you about them, encourage them to contact their GP or a helpline and get help now. Sometimes people find it easier to talk to people they don't know about their suicidal thoughts and feelings.
- Look after yourself. It can be a shock that brings about lots of different emotions when you hear someone is feeling suicidal and supporting them can be very upsetting. Remember you can contact the helplines too if you'd like to talk things over.
For someone getting care from the Mental Health Team
If the person you're worried about has been diagnosed with a mental health condition and are currently receiving support from their local mental health. If you feel they're at immediate risk of suicide you should contact:
- a member of their care team,
- their GP (doctor) or
- your nearest accident and emergency department and ask for details of the nearest crisis resolution team (mental health professionals who work with people experiencing severe psychological and emotional distress)