Whether you know someone who is having a hard time, someone who has recently attempted suicide and survived, or someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, there are many things you can do to help.
By Showing Up And Reaching Out, You’re Taking A Big Step Towards Supporting Your Loved One.
When you are supporting someone else, it can be helpful to gain a basic understanding of suicide and suicide prevention, to break down any stigma, and dissolve any myths about suicide you may hold as beliefs. Holding onto these beliefs may make it challenging to support a loved one in a safe, appropriate way.
Suicide Is Complex And Multi-Faceted.
One way to understand suicide is: “Suicide is an attempt to solve a problem of intense emotional pain with impaired problem-solving skills.” Judith Springer, 2011
For more information on suicide, you can:
- Visit the “Understanding Suicide” section of our website
- Check out some FAQ’s about suicide and suicide prevention here
Supporting Someone Who Is Struggling Or Who Has Attempted
Below are some tips for supporting someone who is struggling with thoughts of suicide or has attempted suicide and lived.
Listen To The Person
Be attentive and reach out to the person to have a caring conversation. Take the person seriously and listen carefully. It is important to remain objective and non-judgmental. You can also assure the person that help is available and something can be done. If they tell you that they are having thoughts of suicide, you should never promise to keep it a secret. Their life is too important.
Be aware of the risk factors and warning signs for suicide. Ask the person directly about any intentions of suicide. Discuss suicide openly and honestly.
Offer support and encourage hope. You can encourage hope by focusing on the person’s strengths. If you’re comfortable, you can agree to go get help with them or offer to sit with them as they make a phone call to support services. Don’t take on their problems; try to help connect them with someone who can support them. It is important to take all threats of suicide seriously. For information on online and community resources, check out our Youth Resources and Adults / All Ages Resources pages.
Never Do It Alone
Try not to support someone alone. You can share the responsibility by involving family, close friends, a family doctor, clergy, or other support services. Check-in with each other by phone, text, or e-mail. You can also attend an education or support session for family members or caregivers. Information about some in the region here.
For more information, check out our page on what to do if you think someone you know is at risk for suicide.
Responding to Distress Online
Some people may use social media to address their thoughts of suicide, whether it is to seek help and support, or to talk about their distress. It is important to recognize that all forms of help seeking are valid and should be taken seriously.
So, if you see content on social media that indicates someone may be having thoughts of suicide, what should you do?
The Association Québécoise de prevention du suicide has created a fantastic guide titled “Taking action on social media to prevent suicide”, that you can view here.
The guide suggests the following tips for responding to distress online. Remember that these are general suggestions, and may not apply in every situation.
- Let the person know that you’re there for them.
- Try to chat with them to learn more about what they are posting. Typically, it is best to reach out through a private message.
- Listen with openness and without judgement.
- Listen to what they have to say, and try to understand the situation. Remember though, to also stay within your own limits for what you can handle.
- Encourage the person to ask for help.
- You can let the person know that you’re concerned about them and want to offer ways to get help. Try to provide information for suicide prevention services that are open 24/7.
- Report alarming content.
- Whether you know the person or not, it is a good idea to report alarming content to the platform involved.
- Contact emergency services as needed.
- If you think the person is in immediate danger, call 911, even if you don’t know where the person lives. Try to stay connected with the person until emergency services can contact them.
- Follow-up with the person.
- Ask the person if they want to stay in touch with you. Remind them that they’re not alone, and that there are people they can talk to.
- Find support for yourself.
- Helping someone through a crisis can be quite a challenge. It is important to get support, and to take time to self-care after providing assistance.
You can help others by being informed about how to safely talk about suicide. For more information on training to prepare yourself to have conversations around suicide, check out the training page on our website.
If you are hoping to learn more about having caring conversations with those around you, check out BeThere.org.
- BeThere.org has developed 5 Golden Rules, which they describe as “a simple but actionable framework to support someone struggling with their mental health”. There is also an opportunity to earn a BeThere certificate.
You can also check out the following pages on our website for more information: