Helping someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts

Listen to them, without judgement

Take them seriously. Acknowledge the strength and bravery it must have taken them to share with you.

Ask what they need

Ask them what kind of support they’re needing from you. Then let them know what kind of support you’ll be able to provide. It’s okay if you’re limited in what you can do, just let them know where your limits are.

Keep them safe

Thinking about suicide doesn’t always mean the person is at risk of acting on these thoughts.
If they do have a desire to act on their suicidal thoughts, you will need to act immediately to ensure they are kept safe:

  • SADAG suicide crisis line: 080-056-7567
  • Lifeline: 0861-322-322

You can’t keep it a secret

If the person asks you to not tell anyone or do anything, explain that you can’t do nothing as this could increase the risk of them acting on their suicidal thoughts.

However, emphasise that this doesn’t mean you are going to betray their trust and that you do respect their privacy.

Discuss with them who you may and may not talk to.

Watch your words

Don’t tell the person they shouldn’t think about suicide because they:

These kinds of comments may increase their feelings of guilt, shame and helplessness.

Once the thoughts have subsided

Check in.

Make sure to continue checking in with the person and showing them you’re still there for them.

You can follow up to find out if they’ve sought professional mental healthcare and/or if they’ve been trying out any of the coping strategies, without placing too much pressure on them

Create a safety plan.

Work together to develop a safety plan that outlines steps they can take when they feel the urge to act on their suicidal thoughts. This should include calling a crisis helpline, reaching out to someone they trust, and engaging in coping strategies.

Look after your own mental health.

Helping someone – especially a loved one – who is thinking about suicide can be really challenging and upsetting. So it’s important that you also to take care of yourself!

If you’re feeling helpless, you can also reach out for support and guidance from a mental healthcare professional, counsellor or support group.

How to cope with suicidal thoughts