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Suicidal thoughts

Spotting the signs that someone is having suicidal thoughts
It's not always easy to know if someone is thinking about taking their life. Some signs can include:
  • Talking about death and suicide.
  • ​Sounding very hopeless and preoccupied that everything is wrong and will not change or get better.
  • Expressing shame or guilt that everything is their fault.
  • Feeling worthless, self-loathing or a burden to other people.
  • Withdrawing from friends or relatives.
  • Behaving recklessly in ways that cause them harm, such as taking drugs and drinking more alcohol.
  • Looking for ways to take their life such as hoarding tablets.
  • Sorting out affairs - making a will, giving things away or saying goodbye.
  • Appearing unusually calm or happy after being very depressed.
It's also possible that someone can deliberately try to hide the signs that they are feeling suicidal. Alternatively, without much warning, some people can find their emotions suddenly reach breaking point when life stresses become too much.
How you can help
  • If you’re worried that the person might be having suicidal thoughts – don’t be worried to ask. Talking about it can make it much less likely to happen, not more, and it could come as a relief for the person to be able to talk about it.

  • Don’t judge or be critical. Reassure them that these feelings will pass and they can find help.

  • If they tell you about a plan to hurt themselves, don’t ignore it. If you’re worried about their safety and the risk is immediate – don’t leave them and try to discourage them from leaving you. 

  • Remain calm and sit with them in a safe place. Try to remove anything that they could use to harm themselves and maybe encourage them to ring a place for support such as the Samaritans (116 123) if it would be easier to talk to a stranger.

  • If you aren’t with them – try to get to them: if you can’t and you’re very concerned – call the ambulance service and ask them about a welfare check.

  • The best thing that you can do is be a good listener. Encourage the person to talk about their feelings by asking open questions and not being afraid of silences. See 'Listening tips'

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