Asking someone if they feel suicidal

Asking someone if they feel suicidal

Young people may not always open up about their thoughts of suicide, so it is important that those in their support network reach out and open safe conversations if they are concerned about them. If you are unsure about the invitations a young person may show if they are feeling suicidal visit here.

Talking about suicide can be daunting and scary, that is why it is important you equip yourself with the right knowledge and tools to support yourself and others. We have put together some information below that can support you. 

Are you experiencing thoughts of suicide? 

Asking the above question and talking about suicide can be a nerve-wracking thing to do, for the person who is suicidal and for anyone who may be concerned about them. Some key things to remember are: 

  • Firstly, it is important that you try to stay calm and listen to the person – hear them out. Avoid judgement, regardless of what’s going on. Suicide should always be taken seriously.
  • Ask open questions to get an understanding of what is happening for them and how it is making them feel. Remember that, regardless of what has happened or your opinion on this, it is making a person think about ending their life. So, it’s important to listen and take them seriously. 
  • Don’t judge, offer platitudes (‘things will pick up’, ‘Life’s too short’ etc.), or try to fix everything. It has taken that person a lot of courage to be open and honest with you, it is important that you take what they say seriously and without judgement. 
  • Empathic listening is key here – ask open questions and show that you’re listening by reflecting on what they say and clarifying what they mean. Don’t jump in with solutions – allow them to express their problems first. 
  • Don’t minimise their feelings by saying it’s ‘just a phase’, ‘you’ll grow out of it’, or ‘why is that even bothering you?’ Take time to imagine what it’s like for that person, and focus on their feelings and their experiences – not your own. 
  • Give them space and time, or, if they feel unable to speak at that time, acknowledge the importance of what they’ve said and arrange a time to talk. As hard and as painful as it might be to listen, you need to hear their reasons for wanting to die before you can focus on reasons for living. 
  • It’s absolutely ok to not know what to say! You’re a human being too and what you’re hearing might be terrifying for you, as well as the individual. If you don’t know what to say – be honest and tell that person. Reassure them that you are glad they told you – this can be far more empowering and genuine than making something up. If you’re honest with them, they’ll be honest with you. 
  • Signpost to PAPYRUS and other relevant support services for your area. 

After the conversation

After the conversation, make sure you take some time to look after yourself. These conversations can be difficult for all people involved so take time out to relax, practice self-care, and debrief if needed. (HOPELINE247 offers a debriefing service)

What if they won’t talk? 

Not everyone will be ready to have a conversation about their mental health/ suicidal thoughts. By starting the conversation, you are letting that person know that they can open up to you when they are ready. Make sure you respect their choice, give them several opportunities to engage in the conversation, and make them aware that they can come to you if they do want that conversation in the future. 

If you are concerned about a young person and need support in opening up a conversation with them, remember HOPELINE247 is here for you too. Our advisers can offer you free confidential guidance, as well as offer reassurance.

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