Supporting Someone

Who Feels Suicidal

What Are Suicidal Feelings?

Suicidal feelings can range from being preoccupied by abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you, to thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.

Types of Suicidal Feelings

The type of suicidal feelings people have varies person to person, in particular in terms of:

  • how intense they are – suicidal feelings are more overwhelming for some people than others. They can build up gradually or be intense from the start. They can be more or less severe at different times and may change quickly.
  • how long they last – suicidal feelings sometimes pass quickly, but may still be very intense. They may come and go, or last for a long time.
How Can I Help Someone With Suicidal Feelings?

It can be very distressing if you are worried about someone who feels suicidal. They may have talked about wanting to end their life, or you may be concerned that they are thinking about it.

You might feel unsure of what to do, but there are lots of things that might help. You could:

  • encourage them to talk about their feelings
  • encourage them to seek treatment and support
  • offer emotional support
  • offer practical support
  • help them think of ideas for self-help
  • help them to make a support plan.
"The main aspect of supporting someone through this is compassion, listening and most importantly not over-reacting or becoming upset. Remaining calm and talking the situation through is extremely important."

It may also be helpful to remove things that someone could use to harm themselves, particularly if they have mentioned specific things they might use.

How Can I Help Them Talk About Suicidal Feelings?

If someone feels suicidal, talking to someone who can listen and be supportive may be their first step towards getting help. They could talk to someone in their life. They could also talk to a professional such as a doctor or therapist, or a trained listener at a helpline. (See our booklet on Making sense of talking treatments and the section on telephone support in our online Crisis services resource for further information.)

If you feel able to listen, you could ask them about how they are feeling. It could help if you:

  • Ask open questions. These are questions that invite someone to say more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’, such as ‘How have you been feeling?’ or ‘What happened next?’ There are more ideas for open questions on the Samaritans website (samaritans.org).
  • Give them time. You might feel anxious to hear their answers, but it helps if you let them take the time they need.
  • Take them seriously. 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.
  • Try not to judge. 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.
  • Don’t skirt 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. Direct questions about suicide like ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts?’ or ‘Have you felt like you want to end your life?’ can help someone talk about how they are feeling.
Not undermining their feelings and letting them know that you believe them and want to be there for them is really necessary
Find Out More

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