Why We Should Talk About Suicide Safely
At PAPYRUS we believe that many young suicides are preventable. We can all play a part in suicide prevention by talking openly and reaching out to support any young person that we think may be struggling.
Our animation explains the reasons why we should talk about suicide safely.
Stigma surrounding suicide creates silence, and silence kills. No one should have to struggle alone with suicidal thoughts. Talking through the taboo helps break the silence.
Being direct doesn’t hurt
Clear questions receive clear answers like ‘are you thinking about suicide?’ It reduces uncertainty and identifies you as a safe, supportive person.
It’s not a crime
In fact, it hasn’t been since 1961, yet we still use the word ‘commit’. Suggesting suicide is sinful feeds into stigma. Try something more sensitive like ‘are you thinking about ending your life?’
It creates safety
Talking about suicide creates safety, but depicting method or sharing graphic content can be dangerous and unhelpful. If someone does share plans with you, that’s a different story. In that case, it’s important to ask them about it and help them to stay suicide safe.
Sometimes don’t talk, listen
Listening is so powerful. Take the time to make them feel heard. Don’t be dismissive, or try to ‘fix’ them, just be present and show them they aren’t alone.
Courage needs encouraging
Talking about it can be scary, but try to keep calm. Someone who is suicidal often needs reassurance and encouragement to speak out. Prepare yourself by looking at the PAPYRUS conversation starters.
Fact help, FACT
Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. In fact, 1 in 4 young people have experienced suicidal thoughts at some point. So they’re not alone. Explain that suicidal thoughts are common and, with help and support, things can get better.
Your confidence builds theirs
It’s a myth that talking about suicide puts the idea in someone’s head. Mentioning suicide does not increase the risk. The risk is not mentioning it at all. Being confident and reaching out to someone can make a huge difference.
People need a friend, not a judge
Being uncritical is critical, the last thing someone needs is to feel judged. Phrases like ‘you’re not thinking of doing something stupid are you?’ are, well, stupid.
Anyone can experience suicidal thoughts
Anyone can be at risk of suicide. There are no ‘usual suspects’. No matter who they are, they need to be taken seriously. Remember, it’s about how they feel about what’s happened, not how you might see it.
It’s not easy, but it shouldn’t stop you
Trying to empathise isn’t always easy. They won’t be the easiest conversations you’ve ever had, but they’ll be the most important. Just showing you care and are trying to understand can be enough.
You aren’t expected to solve the problem
But you can point them in the direction of someone who can. Explore practical options, like going with them to see their doctor. If you know someone who’s already taken steps to end their life, call 999 to seek emergency help.
Acknowledge that it might not seem possible now, but change can happen. Remind them that they matter and that help is available, like PAPYRUS helpline, HOPELINEUK. There’s always hope.
If you are a young person having thoughts of suicide, or if you’re worried about someone who is suicidal then contact HOPELINEUK