How to Help Someone Who Is Suicidal

Practical advice for things you can do to help your friend.

1. Stay with them

Do you believe they are in immediate danger? If so, do not leave them alone. You might need to remove them from dangerous locations or access to methods of self-harm.

Often if someone is at the point of suicide, they appear disassociated from the world around them and may not respond to questions or people. They might appear distant or unemotional. Talking to them and asking them simple questions can help to connect them back to their surroundings.

Equally, they could also appear angry, upset or confused. If so, staying calm and speaking softly can help.

Ask them whether they’ve made any plans to take their own life. If they say yes, don’t leave them on their own. Instead, stay with them and talk. It’s very important that when someone is feeling suicidal they feel listened to, and that their emotional pain is validated.

If you believe they are in immediate danger, you should call 999 or if you are unsure, you can also call the Samaritans on 116 123 who can give you advice and if necessary, can call for an ambulance on your behalf.


2) Always listen

Make sure they feel heard. Saying things like “I’m so sorry. This sounds really difficult. You must be in so much pain” can help someone feel validated and recognised. Don’t try to minimise their feelings or offer solutions. Many people find it difficult to discuss how they feel, and this can be made worse when the response is, ‘But what do you have to worry about?’, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘Others have it worse’.

The Samaritans have advice on their website about how to have difficult conversations, suggestions of open questions and advice on active listening.

Continue to hold space for them and do more listening than talking. Ask open-ended questions and don’t minimise their problems. You are not the person to solve this, but you can help them to find the right support.

Our Get Help page has many resources and we have also listed some below.


3) Know who to contact

Ask who you can contact to let them know this person is in distress. Don’t be surprised if this is not a family member. It could be friends, found family, partner, therapist, GP, community group, neighbour or even an online friend. This reminds this person that they’re not alone and also reassures you that there’s a wider support network out there.

They might say that there is no one or that they don’t want to ‘burden’ anyone. It’s important you make it clear that they are not a burden to anyone and that they should not feel ashamed of the way they feel. Whilst you shouldn’t force them to do something they don’t want to, such as contacting another person, it’s ok to be persistent in finding them help.


4) Offer them a glass of water or cup of tea (but try to avoid alcohol)

This may seem simple but different sensations like taste or liquids can change the fluctuation of nervous system responses. Warmth of tea soothes our internal organs which can reassure our brains that we are safe. Sipping tea or water also reassures our nervous system that we are safe therefore sending safety signals to our brains. Also, sitting together over a cup of tea gives you a chance to talk and listen.


5) Get moving

Suggest you go for a walk together. A walk can provide privacy, a change of scenery, fresh air and walking moderates our heartbeats, soothes our nervous systems and can help us feel less trapped. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to have a conversation and listen to what the person has to say. Even if you are only outside and moving for 5 minutes, it can help.


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