What to say
It can be really scary starting this kind of conversation.
Step 1: Explore how they’re feeling
If something bad is happening to them, ask, “How has it made you feel?” They may shrug and say, “I’m OK.” If they don’t seem OK to you, keep trying, quietly and gently.
Listen attentively. Try to keep the dialogue open by asking questions like, “How bad is it?” or “What’s that like?”
Don’t deny what they’re telling you, and don’t pretend you know how they feel.
Step 2: Ask the ‘S’ question
If they give any indication that they’re feeling hopeless or can’t see the point in going on, ask clearly and calmly, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
Don’t be too quick to accept denials or joking responses.
What to do next
If someone tells you they’re feeling suicidal:
- make sure they’re not left alone
- remove anything they could use to take their own life
- get medical help immediately.
Getting medical help:
- phone your GP surgery – outside normal surgery hours, you’ll be directed to an out-of-hours service
- call 999 or take them to A&E and stay with them until they are seen by a member of the mental health team.
Even if it’s only a hunch, share your concerns with others:
- don’t be afraid to involve their family, friends or colleagues
- share this leaflet with others and plan together how you are going to keep the person safe.
Take care of yourself:
- talk to your GP about your feelings
- confide in a trusted friend
- find a support group for carers of people with mental health problems.