Are you concerned about someone you know?

If you're worried that someone you know may be considering suicide, try to encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. Don’t worry about having answers. Just listening to what someone has to say and taking it seriously is the best way to help.

Asking them a direct question about whether they have thought about suicide can also make all the difference. Some people think that asking someone whether they are having suicidal thoughts will put the idea in their head. This is a MYTH. Evidence shows that asking the direct question actually opens the door and gives them permission to speak about it.

The important things to remember are to:
  • Be alert – Not everyone who thinks about suicide will tell someone, but there may be warning signs.

  • Be honest – Tell the person why you're worried about them, and ask about suicide. Tell them you want to know how they really are, and that it’s OK to talk about suicide.

  • Listen – Just listening is one of the most helpful things you can do. Try not to judge or give advice.

  • Get them some help – There is a range of help and useful advice available.

  • Take care of yourself – You may find it helpful to discuss your feelings with another friend, or a confidential service.

Suicide warning signs
When someone is contemplating suicide, their words and actions can give clues or warning signs.

These will show up differently in different people and often are not easy to spot. Such as a cheeriness which may seem fake to you. Or they may joke about their emotions. Such as saying something quite alarming that is disguised as a joke.

Don’t ignore your gut feeling if you are concerned about someone. If you have a feeling that someone you know isn’t behaving as they normally would – they seem out of sorts - then it’s okay to trust and act on these thoughts. Some people won’t be open about how they are feeling.

Many people also try to seek help before attempting suicide by telling other people about their feelings. If someone tells you about how they are feeling don’t ignore them.

Signs that someone may not be okay include:
  • Becoming anxious
  • Being more irritable
  • Being more confrontational
  • Becoming quiet
  • Having mood swings
  • Acting recklessly
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Not wanting to be around other people
  • Avoiding contact with friends and family
  • Having different problems with work or studies
  • Saying negative things about themselves
Phrases or themes to watch out for on social media/online:
  • I want to give up
  • No one would notice if I wasn't here
  • I hate myself
High-risk warning signs:

A person may be more likely to attempt suicide if they are:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Preparing to end their life. Such as storing up medication, or
  • Putting affairs in order. Such as giving away belongings or making a will
If someone you know is showing these high risk signs then take these seriously and attempt to help straight away.
What to say/do
If you think that someone may be feeling suicidal, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.

You may feel uncomfortable talking about suicidal feelings. You may not know what to say. This is entirely normal and understandable.

Remember that you don’t need to find an answer, or even to fully understand why they feel the way they do. Listening to what they have to say will at least let them know you care.

If you are not sure that someone is feeling suicidal:

Ask them directly:

  • Are you thinking about suicide?
  • Are you having thoughts of ending your life?

It is better to address the person’s feelings directly rather than avoiding the issue. Asking about suicide won’t make it more likely to happen.

Things that you can do to help:
  • Let them know that you care about them and that they are not alone.
  • Empathise with them. You could say something like, "I can't imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand."
  • Don't be judgemental, criticise or blame them.
  • Repeat their words back to them in your own words. This shows that you are listening. Repeating information can also make sure that you have understood them properly, ask about their reasons for living and dying and listen to their answers.
  • Try to explore their reasons for living in more detail, ask if they have felt like this before. If so, ask how their feelings changed last time.
  • Reassure them that they will not feel this way forever.
  • Encourage them to focus on getting through the day rather than focusing on the future.
  • Ask them if they have a plan for ending their life. Ask what the plan is?
  • Encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with. Such as help from a doctor or counsellor, or support through a charity such as the Samaritans.
  • Follow up any commitments that you agree to.
If you think someone is in immediate danger – they want to end their life now:
  • Do not leave them on their own. Stay or find someone to be with them.
  • Remove anything they could use to take their own life e.g. tablets, sharp objects, rope etc.
  • Seek professional help straight away.
Don’t tell them:
  • To "cheer up", "pull themselves together", "man up" or "snap out of it".
  • That they have no reason to feel like that or that they shouldn't feel like that.
  • That they should be grateful for having a good life, or that they are being silly.
Look after yourself too – Supporting someone in distress can be distressing in itself. Make sure you take care of yourself as well.
Where to get immediate local help

The Sussex Mental Healthline is a 24-hour NHS mental Healthline service, available to anyone concerned about their own mental health or that of a relative or friend. A trained and experienced team is on hand ready to listen and offer urgent mental health support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Telephone: 0800 0309 500

If someone is in immediate danger of taking their own life call emergency services on 999. Ask for an ambulance. Or take them to A&E at their local hospital.
Other people & resources you can go to for help