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What to do if someone is suicidal...

What to do if someone is suicidal...

Finding out that someone close to you is thinking about suicide can be extremely distressing and worrying. You may feel overwhelmed and uncertain about how to support them during this challenging period. This article offers guidance on helping someone who may be considering suicide.

We understand this is an exceptionally difficult time for everyone involved. Learning that a loved one is having thoughts of suicide can evoke intense emotions like fear, grief, and powerlessness. You may feel lost as to how to respond or what to say. Please know you don’t have to go through this alone.

If you need to talk to someone during this trying time, we’re here to listen without judgement. Speak with our compassionate team on 0808 115 1505 if you need help and support.

Recognising the Warning Signs

Some key signs that may indicate someone is having thoughts about suicide or considering taking their own life include:
Significant changes in mood or behaviour like withdrawing, losing interest in activities, having intense mood swings or anxiety, or displaying reckless behaviour.

Expressions of hopelessness include feeling like a burden on others, believing things won't get better, or seeing problems as inescapable.

Preoccupation with death, like talking about dying or suicide, looking for ways to end one's life, or saying goodbye to loved ones.

Pay close attention if you notice any of these signs, especially new or unusual behaviours. Reach out to offer support.

How to Approach Someone Who May Be Suicidal

If you suspect someone is considering suicide, don’t be afraid to ask them directly. Avoiding the issue could reinforce any belief they have that no one cares. Here are some dos and don'ts for having this difficult conversation:
• Ask plainly, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
• Listen without judgement and offer your full presence
• Tell them, “I’m here for you,” “I care,” “You’re not alone.”

• Argue or debate reasons for dying vs. living
• Act shocked, lecture them, or say their feelings are foolish
• Promise secrecy or that things will just get better

Tell the person you want to help keep them safe, even if they ask you not to do anything. They need care and support right now, which could include calling emergency services or a suicide helpline.

Offering Someone With Suicidal Thoughts Support

If someone confides that they’ve been thinking of suicide, it’s essential to get professional help, especially if they have a plan or means for attempting suicide.

Give Them a Chance to Talk
• Ask gentle, open questions like “What thoughts have been going through your mind?” and let them guide the conversation. Don’t worry about silences.
• Avoid asking “Why?” which can sound like blaming.

Listen Without Judgement
• Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong. Understand that this seems like the only choice for them now.
• Accept all their feelings as valid - anger, sadness, shame, hopelessness, etc.

Offer Hope
• Remind them that there are always alternatives and that this pain is temporary.
• Note that they’ve overcome difficulties before.
• Help them identify reasons for living.

Your support cannot substitute proper mental health care, but it can encourage someone to keep going until they can access professional treatment.

Getting a Suicidal Person Help

If someone is actively suicidal, professional intervention is needed immediately:

If They are in Immediate Danger:
• Call 999 or NHS 111 and ask for an ambulance if you are with them but cannot drive them.
• Take them to the nearest A&E if they will go willingly.
• Call 999 if you must leave them alone at any point. Tell the operator that the person needs a welfare check.

Non-Emergency Support Options:
• SOS Silence of Suicide offers emotional support on 0808 115 1505
• Encourage them to call their GP and book an emergency appointment
• Go with them to an appointment to discuss their suicide risk
• Help make safety plans for when suicidal thoughts recur
• If they are already under mental health care, encourage them to reach out

Ask what they think would help - counselling, medication, respite care, mental health support groups? Support them in seeking different treatments until they find an approach that works.

Valuable Information on PIA

There are several things you can do to support someone who may be suicidal, and by taking action, you may help save a life. On this page, we will provide you with valuable information on PIA, an initiative by SOS Silence of Suicide. PIA aims to spread awareness of poor mental health, the obvious and not-so-obvious ways of intervention, what it looks like, and how we can all work to help reduce suicide statistics amongst all groups of people. The three steps of P.I.A can be practised individually, but essentially, they all combine into one suicide prevention initiative.


Spotting warning signs like extreme mood changes could mean someone is at risk of suicide. Compassionately asking, “Are you feeling suicidal?” creates a judgement-free space for them to open up.

If you suspect someone is suicidal, offer to help them contact prevention helplines or attend support groups. Record suicidal behaviours to share with healthcare providers to aid recovery. Reflecting on progress promotes hope.

With access to professional treatment and support systems, individuals can overcome suicidal thoughts. Small acts of kindness save lives. Supporting someone who is suicidal does not compromise personal safety.


If a person seems extremely distressed or suicidal, or has started harming themselves, or threatening someone else, call emergency services. Calmly ask if they need support and actively listen. Never approach someone with a weapon. Speak to them calmly from a distance. Never put your life at risk.

Accredited suicide intervention training equips you to assist in a crisis. Compassion and support systems help people recover from suicidal ideation. Offer to help them get professional treatment. The right support makes all the difference.


Increasing awareness means observing those around us for signs they need help. This allows us to reach out to vulnerable individuals.

Taking accredited suicide awareness courses improves skills in spotting warning signs. With compassion and treatment from professionals, suicidal individuals can heal. Loved ones provide care through ups and downs.

Check in regularly if you suspect someone is struggling. Involve them in daily life and emphasise hope. Seek additional support if needed. Communication and professional help save lives


Compassion involves demonstrating kindness, respect, understanding, and a desire to help others in need. It can be shown through supportive words, tone of voice, body language, and actions.

When people receive compassion in challenging times, they feel less isolated, encouraged to open up, and that their life has value. Acts of compassion make people feel cared for and offer hope.

Offering compassion uplifts both the giver and receiver. Helping others makes us feel good, knowing we've made a positive difference. Showing someone you care could be the lifeline they need.

Compassion builds personal and collective emotional resilience, empowering people to speak openly about mental health struggles. It helps remove stigma, so crucial conversations can happen to prevent suicide. Small acts of compassion can save lives.

Accredited Training

During 2024, SOS will be offering accredited training courses. They will be available to businesses, places of learning, organisations, charities and businesses. Monitor our website for announcements.