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How to support someone who is suicidal

Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under 45 in the UK, which is an alarming statistic. In 2018 deaths by suicide rose by 10.9% in the UK. (Source: Samaritans.org) With such devastating statistics, you may be wondering what to do if you ever find yourself supporting someone who is suicidal.



How do I know if somebody may be distressed or suicidal?

There are a number of possible signs of distress to look for that may suggest somebody is struggling.

  • Verbalising they are distressed

  • Highly emotional responses

  • Very sensitive to criticism or failure

  • Struggling to cope

  • Strong negative beliefs or comments about themselves

  • Appearing numb or having no emotional response

  • Requiring high levels of contact or communication

  • Avoiding forms of contact or communication

  • High levels of absence from work or school

  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings

  • They state feeling isolated and alone

  • High restlessness

What should I say to someone who is suicidal?


Some phrases you could say:

‘It sounds like it’s been really difficult for you…’

‘I am so glad you told me that you’ve been thinking about suicide’

‘I can hear you are feeling/you’ve been feeling…’

‘Tell me more about that’

‘How likely is it that you are going to act on it?’

  • Repeat back to them what they have said so they feel reassured that you have listened and paid attention.

  • Sometimes silence is okay. Never underestimate the power of just being there physically for someone, even if there are no words.

  • Listen and remain non-judgmental and patient.

  • Let them talk for as long as they need to.

  • If you believe they are in immediate danger then it is important to contact the emergency services. As difficult as this may feel at the time as your friend may feel betrayed by this, they will thank you when they feel well again.

  • Remember that you don’t have to have the answer for them. In their heightened emotional state, empathy and understanding will be far more effective.


Take care of yourself.

You are not to blame or responsible for this persons choices. You have done all you can.

Ensure you are supported to talk and process your experience with somebody else, particularly if it was distressing.

 

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