Supporting someone when you have concerns around their safety can be a really difficult and overwhelming time.
If you are concerned about your immediate safety or the safety of someone else – Ring 111
If you're worried that someone who might be thinking about suicide, don't be afraid to ask them directly. A person who is thinking about suicide might not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted.
They might feel ashamed of how they're feeling, like they don't deserve help, or like no-one can help them. People who feel suicidal often feel like they are alone and that their whānau and friends would be better off without them.
Most people who attempt suicide, don’t want to die – they just want their pain to end or can't see another way out of their situation.
Lots of people feel suicidal at some time in their lives. It can be impossible to have hope, that things will get better.
Support from people who care about them, and connection with their own sense of culture, identity and purpose, can help them to find a way through.
If you are worried that someone is suicidal, having a direct conversation may help. Asking about suicide in a supportive way will not put the thought in their head, and it will help them to know, you care and take them seriously.
- ask them if they would like to talk about what’s going on for them and be patient. Remember that they might not want to open up straight away, but letting them know you are there for them is a big help
- ask them directly about their thoughts of suicide and what they are planning. If they have a specific plan, they need help right away
- listen and don’t judge. Even if you can't understand why they are feeling this way, accept that they are
- take them seriously and let them know you care
- you don't need to have all the answers, or to offer advice. The best thing you can do is be there and listen
- try to stay calm, positive and hopeful that things can get better
- if they are comforted by prayer or karakia, invite them to pray with you
- do not agree to keep secrets about their suicidal thoughts or plans. It is okay to tell someone else so that you can keep them safe
- let them talk about their thoughts of suicide – avoiding the topic does not help. Ask them if they've felt this way before, and what they did to cope or get through it. They might already know what could help them
- don't pressure them to talk to you. They might not want to talk, or they might feel more comfortable talking to someone who is not as close to them.
- get help from people or agencies specialising in psychiatric or mental health services, crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
Supporting someone - Looking after yourself
Supporting someone who is feeling suicidal can take a tremendous amount of energy and time. It can be common to feel burdened and drained by the responsibilities of your support role. You may even feel guilty that you are not doing enough. These are all natural responses to stressful circumstances.
It is important that you don’t face the situation alone. Ensure you take care of yourself and share the responsibility by talking to someone, who may be either:
- a person who is also concerned about or close to, the suicidal person, or
- an external person like a friend, colleague or professional (either face to face or over the phone).
Talking to someone, such as a whānau member or friend, Counsellor, or telephone helpline, can provide you with the support you need. It is important to allow yourself a space to talk about how the situation is affecting you, so you can identify and respond to your own needs and develop coping strategies to better manage.
It can also be helpful, to ask how much time and energy you can realistically give to the situation. If it begins to take over your life, you can quickly become burnt out and exhausted, which is no help to either yourself or the person you are trying to support.
Make sure you allow yourself a break from supporting the person you are concerned about. Look after yourself and ensure you are making time to continue to do things that are enjoyable and important to you. Pay attention to your physical health and wellbeing, eat properly and get enough sleep.
During such a difficult time, it’s important to keep an eye on your own stress levels.
You may wish to consider some of the following strategies:
- listening to music
- enjoying the outdoors
- exercising regularly
- relaxation: massage, yoga, meditation.
Skylight is here to help you navigate this difficult time. We have contract counselling services in Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt, Churton Park, Kāpiti, Whangarei, Auckland, New Plymouth and Christchurch and a partnership network across Aotearoa for support in other regions.
Our specialised Resource Centre and library can support you with information, publications, books and Dvds, accessible nationwide free of charge. Please follow the links to contact us for further information and access to the support you and your whānau need.
We invite you to find out about our Waves programme - an evidence-based, well-evaluated programme for people bereaved by suicide at any time in their lives (for 17+ years old) or Travellers - a school based programme promoting resilience and well-being in year 9 students.