What to do if you’re concerned someone close to you is thinking of suicide
Edited by Jill Wright,
While it might feel scary or confronting to do so, if you are worried that someone in your life is suicidal it is important to talk to them about it. This can be a hard conversation to have, but there are a number of things you can do to help:
Tell them you what you have observed that has caused you to feel concerned, and that you care about them and want to support them.
Ask directly if they have been thinking of suicide. Be prepared that the answer could be yes - this is a good thing as it means they are open to talking about it.
Avoid jumping straight to problem-solving and try to remain calm and listen to their experience without judgement. Acknowledge that things sound really hard at the moment and validate their feelings.
Ask whether they have made any plans to take their own life. If they have, check access to the method, and remove any objects that may be used to harm themselves.
Do not agree to keep their thoughts or plans a secret, but tell them that you are there to support them to get help. Assist them to make an appointment with their GP, psychologist or other support person, and to contact a family member or close friend to make them aware of the current risk. Do this together, rather than assuming they will do it later on their own.
Contact a support service or helpline for additional advice (such as Lifeline – 13 11 14 or Suicide Callback Service – 1300 659 467).
If you are very concerned and the person cannot agree to stay safe, you can contact your local Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CATT) for further assessment, call 000, or go to the emergency department of your local hospital.
Supporting someone who is suicidal can be extremely stressful, so it is also important to take care of yourself and seek your own support through family, friends or professional psychologists.
Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.