The dos and don'ts of supporting someone who might be suicidal

Take some time to know how best to approach a friend or loved one who might be suicidal.

For many of us, thinking about suicide, much less talking about it, can be difficult. We might feel upset, angry or just overwhelmed. But supporting those who might be feeling suicidal is so important.

The latest figures from the National Office for Suicide Prevention have shown that suicide rates in Ireland have fallen to their lowest levels in 20 years, though an unknown number of cases still go unreported. But we still have a long way to go.

If you think a loved one might be feeling suicidal, and are unsure of the best way to support them, here are some dos and don'ts to help.


Don't be afraid to ask questions

If you think a loved one might be feeling suicidal, don't be afraid to ask them in a clear and sensitive way. Many people are afraid to say the words in case it will 'give the person an idea', but asking them "you seem low, and I'm worried about you — are you thinking of ending your life?" will give them the chance to open up and begin the conversation around how they feel.

Do listen and let them talk

This may be the first time this person has spoken about suicide. Give them space to explain how they feel and why they feel that way. Be there for them and let them speak for as long as they need to.

Don't get upset or angry

Try to stay calm and don't get frustrated if your friend isn't ready to talk. Do not try to minimise or dismiss how they're feeling. Although it can be overwhelming, remember that you are there to support them and remain as non-judgemental as possible.

Do reassure them

Let them know that they're not alone and that there is lots of help out there to support them. Let them know that you'll be there for them to listen when they need to talk.

Don't do it all alone

If a friend has told you that they are thinking about suicide, there are lots of services and support out there — don't put pressure on yourself to be the only one who can help. Think about who can give support — family members, work colleagues, and mental health professionals. If there is an immediate risk that the person may harm themselves, they will need emergency help.

Do keep in touch

People who are suicidal often withdraw from those around them. Stay connected with your loved one and regularly check in on them.
With thanks to the HSE for their guidelines on suicide support.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised, you can contact:

Samaritans: freephone 116123 or text 087 260 9090

Pieta House: freephone 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444

Aware: freephone 1800 804 848

The image newsletter