Offering support to someone you're worried is suicidal

One of the best things you can do if you think someone may be feeling suicidal is to encourage them to talk and to listen to what they say.

You might feel you need to try to provide a solution but the most important thing you can do to help is listen. If you are worried, trust your instincts, and ask them: “Are you thinking about suicide?”

Warning signs of suicide

A person may be at imminent risk if they are feeling suicidal and they:

  • have made a plan about how they will kill themselves
  • have access to a method to kill themselves
  • are impulsive, or act recklessly
  • have previously attempted suicide
  • have close contact with someone who had attempted or died by suicide
  • no longer fear death
  • are visualising dying or after their death

Immediate action required: Get help now, if:

  • someone's in crisis and you want urgent help phone 111.
  • someone's life is at immediate risk, for example by serious injury or overdose, phone 999 or go to your nearest A&E.

Find your nearest A&E

Other warning signs
  • talk about hurting or killing themselves
  • talk about feeling trapped, such as saying they can't see any way out of their current situation
  • talk or write about death, dying or suicide
  • can tolerate a high level of pain
  • have feelings of hopelessness
  • have episodes of sudden rage and anger have sudden mood swings
  • lose interest in most things
  • engage in risky activities
  • have recently started, or increased, their frequency of self-harm - including misusing drugs or alcohol
  • have become increasingly withdrawn from friends and family
  • appear anxious and agitated
  • are unable to sleep or sleep much more than usual
  • talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
  • put their affairs in order, such as giving away possessions or making a will

If you notice any of these warning signs in a friend, relative or loved one, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. SAMH have information and advice on how to ask if you're concerned someone is thinking about suicide (PDF 484KB).

You can also ask for permission to share your concerns with their GP or if they have one, their care team.

Gill discusses the importance of recognising that there's a difference between feeling suicidal and making plans to die.

Gill discusses how to look for signs and changes in a loved one.

If you want to speak to someone to get advice about how to help, you can phone 111 and choose the mental health option.

If you would like to talk to someone confidentially, you can contact Breathing Space.

Gill talks about asking someone directly if they are feeling suicidal.

SAMH have some advice on how to ask.

Gill says you shouldn't underestimate the power of showing you care to someone who is feeling suicidal.

SAMH have advice on how to help a friend or family member.

Gill discusses what people can do to offer help and support to someone with suicidal thoughts.

You can watch Neil's story, where he talks about there being "light at the end of the tunnel".

Read more about coping with money worries

Gill talks about how important is to look after yourself while supporting someone else.

If you need help and advice you can phone 111 and choose the mental health option.

If you would like to talk to someone confidentially, you can contact Breathing Space.

Practical advice to support someone

SAMH has more detailed information about helping someone with suicidal thoughts.

They have specific information for:

There is also information for how to cope when supporting someone else. It's important that you also look after your own mental health.

YoungMinds have advice and resources for parents. You can also get help from your GP or by phoning 111.

Last updated:
07 March 2023

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