WSPD

Asking directly about suicidal thoughts can help save lives

To mark World Suicide Prevention Day on the 10th of September, our charity partner Samaritans is encouraging people not to be afraid to talk about suicidal thoughts and feelings if they are worried about someone.

Every 90 seconds, someone in the UK or Ireland takes their own life.

Following an incredibly challenging few years, the charity is trying to reduce the stigma around suicide and urging people to look out for each other.

If someone is feeling suicidal, it might be hard to get through to them. They might be distant or distracted or feel disconnected from the world and their own emotions. They might not respond right away.

Evidence shows that asking someone if they’re suicidal doesn’t make things worse, it can protect people, as it provides a crucial opportunity to open up, express their feelings and seek help.

If someone does let you know they are having suicidal thoughts, always take them seriously. You don’t have to be an expert, just being there to listen and showing you care can help them work through what’s going on. Let them know they’re not a burden and there’s always someone they can turn to – whether it’s a family member or friend, or a 24/7 helpline like Samaritans.

It’s OK to ask about suicidal thoughts. It could save a life.

Samaritans’ caller, Paul, describes how opening up about his suicidal thoughts helped him get the support he needed:

“I had a lot of trauma and I never really dealt with the triggers from my childhood. It all came to a halt when I tried to take my own life on several occasions. I had gotten to the end of my own strength. I felt there was no way out – I couldn’t talk to anyone. I felt trapped.

“It was only when I began getting support that I started to accept that something wasn’t quite right. I’ve contacted Samaritans on numerous occasions. I would call at 2am with no hope. I can honestly say that those calls saved my life.

“Now, I find talking to my partner and people close to me helps. Before I wouldn’t because of the stigma, and I was scared to. But I do now, and I can be more honest and have a real conversation.”

How to start a conversation with someone

Just being there to listen and showing you care can help. Here are some tips on how to open up a conversation with someone you’re worried about: 

  • Choose a good time, and somewhere without distractions
  • Use open questions that need more than a yes/no answer
  • ‘How are things, I’ve noticed you don’t seem quite yourself?’
  • Listen well. ‘How’s that making you feel?’
  • Avoid giving your view of what’s wrong, or what they should do

It’s normal to feel anxious about asking someone if they’re suicidal, but it could save someone’s life. Try and avoid saying things like ‘you’re not thinking of doing something stupid are you?’. Being patient and showing you care builds trust and helps someone to open up.

You could ask:

  • Have you thought about ending your life?
  • Are you saying that you want to die?
  • Are you thinking of ending your life because you want to be dead, or is it because you want the situation you’re in or the way you feel to stop?

You can read more advice on Samaritans website here and download the charity’s ‘Tips for helping someone open up’ PDF.

Remember, you’re not alone. Samaritans is there day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure. If you’re struggling, you can contact Samaritans any time of the day or night by phoning 116 123 or emailing jo@Samaritans.org.

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