Are you concerned about someone?

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Are you concerned about someone you know is having thoughts of suicide? Many, many people think about suicide at some point in their lifetime – around one in five of us – but the overwhelming majority do not go on to take their own lives.
Sometimes, if a person is feeling suicidal, there are things they might say that can act as a sign that they might be planning to take their own life

  • I just want it all to stop
  • I’ve had enough of everything
  • it all hurts too much
  • Nobody loves me or cares about me
  • Everyone would be better off without me
  • Offer prompts

Ask open questions 

We can encourage people to talk more through phrases such as ‘Tell me more’ or ‘Can you say more about that?’ or even simply reflecting back an important word or phrase the person has used such as ‘Overwhelmed?’ or ‘No point?’

Avoid offering solutions

These are questions that invite someone to say more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’, such as ‘How have you been feeling?’ or ‘What happened next?’

Talking about someone’s problems is not always easy and its often tempting to try to offer solutions to their problems such as ‘Have you thought of doing this?’ or ‘You should try that’.

It helps if you let them take the time they need to describe where they are at. Make sure you have time to listen. If they feel unable to speak fully at that time, acknowledge the importance of what they’ve said and arrange another time to chat.

Give them time 

People who talk about suicide do sometimes act on their feelings – it’s a common myth that they don’t. It’s best to assume that they are telling the truth about feeling suicidal.

Worried about suicide

Take their feelings seriously

Take whatever they say seriously and without judgment, including their reasons for dying. Don’t offer platitudes like ‘things will pick up’, ‘Life’s too short’ etc and don’t minimalize their feelings by saying it’s ‘just a phase’, ‘you’ll grow out of it’ or ‘why is that even bothering you?’

Avoid judgements 

You might feel shocked, upset or frightened, but it’s important not to blame the person for how they are feeling. They may have taken a big step by telling you, and comments such as “Don’t you think you might be drinking too much?” can make the situation worse.

Don’t tiptoe around the topic 

There is still a taboo around talking about suicide which can make it even harder for people experiencing these feelings to open up and feel understood. If you are worried about them ask directly – ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts?’ or ‘Are you thinking about suicide?

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Concerned You don’t have all the answers ?

t’s okay to not know what to say! You’re a human being too and what you’re hearing might be frightening and confusing. If you don’t know what to say – be honest and tell that person.

Reassure them that you are glad they told you – this can be far more empowering and genuine than making something up. If you’re honest with them, they’ll be honest with you.

Concerned After the conversation

After the conversation, make sure you take some time to look after yourself. These conversations can be difficult for all people involved so take time out to relax, practice self-care, and debrief if needed. If you need someone to talk to you can call the Samaritans on 116 123 for free.