Often, people can be afraid to start the conversation about suicide as they may feel that they do not have ‘specialist knowledge’ or worry that that by mentioning suicide they will put the idea into someones head. Research shows that this is not the case, instead, everyone has the ability to help someone suffering with suicidal thoughts and by starting the conversation you can make a real difference.
Look for Signs
It may not always be obvious that someone is having suicidal thoughts or planning on taking their own life. A list of warning signs can be found here.
Starting the Conversation
Look for signs that someone might want to talk about something:
- “I’ve noticed you’ve not been yourself lately”
- “I’ve noticed you’ve been really quiet recently”
- “I’ve noticed you’ve not been on the whatsapp group as much”
The phrase ‘I’ve noticed’ is a very caring and non-threatening way to show someone you are worried about them and offers them the opportunity to talk if they are ready to.
- I’ve noticed………….is there anything you would like to talk about?
- I was a bit worried when…..is there anything on your mind?
- Can you tell me what’s going on for you right now?
Be persistent, often people will say they are fine when they’re not. Explain why you are concerned and remind them you are there to talk whenever they are ready.
Use open questions, reflect back feelings, clarify what you’ve heard. Avoid coming up with solutions or disagreeing with them (‘you do have friends’, ‘you are great at your job’ – while you mean well the person will not feel listened to).
Ask if the person is thinking about suicide – it can be very uncomfortable to ask but will help you both to know how serious the situation is. Asking someone about suicide will not make them think about suicide.
- “Sometimes when people feel as down as you do they are thinking about suicide. Have you thought about suicide?”
- “Sometimes when people have the feelings you describe they thinking about ending their life. Has this been on your mind?”
- “That sounds really difficult”
- “That must have been so hard”
- “I can’t imagine what that must feel like”
- “I’m sorry to hear you feel so lonely”
Once you have started the conversation, the next step is to actively listen to them. Samaritans have information on how to support someone you are worried about – click to picture below to access.
Having a conversation about suicide with someone can be overwhelming and bring up many emotions in yourself – this is not something that you need to face alone. Make sure that you yourself reach out and look after yourself if you are struggling with this information or need some support. Helplines are also open to those supporting