When someone is in a crisis situation and cannot see the way out, they may consider taking their own life because they can’t tolerate their suffering anymore. Its important for friends and family members to be able to identify the warning signs that someone is suicidal and know what actions to take to assist them.
Loss of a job, loss of a relationship, the death of a loved one, financial problems or a major personal disappointment may cause some individuals to lose hope. Mental illness including depression and anxiety can also contribute to the likelihood that an individual will consider suicide.
This often manifests in feelings like worthlessness, loss of purpose, depression, moodiness, anger, irritability, hopelessness and a sense of being trapped with no way out. If a person describes these feelings to you, don’t ignore them. Enquire further about what they are going through and whether they have thought about suicide.
These may include:
One of the most effective things you can do is to connect with the suicidal individual. Talk to them kindly and calmly. Ask them directly whether they are considering, or have considered, suicide. This shows the individual that you care and are willing to try to understand and support them. Most people don’t really want to die, but they can’t go on without support and help.
Listen to what is on their mind, and spend as much time with them as they need. If they admit to having suicidal thoughts, take it seriously and as far as possible limit the availability of medications, drugs, weapons or vehicles that they could use to harm themselves.
In an emergency situation or if someone’s life is in imminent danger, call 000 without delay. Alternatively, take them straight to the Emergency Department at the nearest hospital, or see a GP or psychologist urgently. Even if it is not an emergency, the person will need professional help and support imminently. Assist them to obtain the treatment they need.
Although you may have helped a suicidal individual to get through a crisis situation, the problem likely hasn’t gone away. Even if the person appears to be returning to somewhat normal behaviour, the problems and emotions that caused the crisis in the first place must be dealt with, or they will soon manifest in another crisis. Regularly check on the person and show your care and concern for them. Continue to support their efforts to seek appropriate treatment.
While the situation may be confronting and uncomfortable for you, do NOT be afraid to tackle the issue and do NOT ignore it hoping it will go away. Lack of support and contact from a loved one, is usually interpreted by a suicidal individual as abandonment causing further emotional trauma and increasing their chances of taking their own life.
If someone tells you that they want to kill themselves, it's important that you respond in the right way.
No matter how hurt, angry or betrayed it may make you feel, there are some things you just SHOULD NOT say, such as:
While these statements may be true and well-intentioned, they don’t convey understanding, support, acceptance, hope or joy. Rather they may cause you to come across as judgemental, dismissive, irritated or condemning, causing the person to become even more ashamed, hurt, isolated and overwhelmed, further exacerbating the situation.
If you are supporting a suicidal friend or family member, there are plenty of resources available to assist. Do not hesitate to seek help if you feel out of your depth or overwhelmed.
The following organisations can provide immediate support for suicidal individuals or their family or friends:
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
How to support friends and family who seem to be suicidal including free resources, what to say and what to avoid saying.
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