What Can I Do To Help?

Step 1.  Stay with the person

  • The suicidal person must not be left alone. The suicidal person needs to feel assured that it is possible to get help. This will relieve some of their stress. 
  • Help by being calm.   Being there will help them feel safe.
  • Stay in control and keep yourself safe. The helper must be prepared to set him/herself as the support person who will be willing to take charge at this time. The suicidal person’s life is often at a point of despair so the helper needs to be in control and directive. 
  • Be aware of personal space and that touching may not be appropriate.


Step 2.  Establish rapport

  • Listen to their story - this can be the most important thing you will do!
  • Allow silence for them to think and consider what they are saying.  Don’t fill their silences with talk. Don’t rush into asking questions.
  • Be aware of their emotions.
  • Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the other person’s feelings of hopelessness, despair or depression.  Make sure that you understand their story from their point of view without feeling sorry for them.
  • Be accepting and non-judgmental.
  • Be caring, concerned and patient.
  • Be positive and hopeful.
  • Don’t talk about your own or other people’s problems.
  • Don’t try to reason the person out of it.


Step 3.   Identify the problem

  • Ask simple questions when you’re not sure or if something isn’t clear. 
  • Give advice only when it is asked for.
  • Ask relevant questions to find out how the person is feeling. 
  • Appear comfortable speaking about suicide.
  • Note physical signs of discomfort.
  • Be sensitive to age, gender and culture issues.
  • Don’t use guilt, or try to make the person feel guilty.
  • Ask if anything stressful has happened to them. 
  • Encourage the person to talk about what is so bad that it makes them want to die.


Step 4.  Evaluate the suicidal potential

  • Do remember “this person does not want to die”.
  • Assess if they are expressing feelings of despair or hopelessness.
  • Find out if they are receiving treatment for mental illness/emotional problems. 
  • Ask if they use drugs or alcohol.
  • Ask if anyone in their family has suicided or anyone else they know.
  • Check if they have attempted suicide before. 
  • Ask if they are thinking of suicide. Be aware that if a person is not suicidal, asking them will not put the idea in their head.
  • If they say yes, ask if they have a suicide plan.
  • Ask how they intend to kill themselves.
  • Ask if they have got what they need for that plan. (e.g. gun/rope/pills)
  • Ask when they intend to carry out the plan.


All of the above will help you to evaluate the level of risk for the person. 


Step 5.  What to do next

  • Reduce the means of suicide by checking out the house or their environment.

(e.g. If they have pills at hand, ask them to flush them down the toilet.  Help with this.)

  • If the suicidal person has a weapon or is behaving aggressively towards you, seek assistance from the police.
  • If the person has already done serious harm to his/herself … ring 000 and ask for an ambulance… or go to your nearest emergency department…
  • There is no confidentiality in suicide. Explain this to the person.
  • Inform them that you need to get help. Do not take full responsibility for this issue on your own. 
  • Ask who they would like you to contact – family, friends, doctor, health-worker, elders etc.
  • Find out what has supported the suicidal person in the past, and whether these supports are still available - someone/something important to them – even a pet.
  • Seek professional help if person is agreeable (see insert in back cover for list of crisis and counselling services).
  • Stay with the person until you can get other help or you are sure that he/she is safe.
  • Don’t avoid or discount the consequences of their actions.
  • Don’t dare the person to suicide.
  • Don’t make promises.
  • If possible, give ongoing support via visiting or phoning, even though you have put other supports in place.
  • When the person has received other help or you are sure he/she is safe, take care of  yourself .  Speak with someone you trust or a support service if you feel the need.


It has to be noted that when we attempt to evaluate suicide potential, research suggests that it is very difficult to predict who might suicide.  Therefore, even with your best effort, prevention of suicide cannot always be assured.




  • People rarely suicide in company
  • Taking away the means significantly reduces the risk of suicide
  • Thwarting impulsivity, by getting someone through a bad patch, significantly reduces the risk of suicide
  • Having a strong sense of hopelessness is a major risk for someone with suicidal thoughts.
  • Having the idea to suicide for the benefit of others is an even greater risk factor.


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