The reasons someone might consider ending their own life are complex and can be difficult to understand. What’s important is that we recognise the warning signs, take them seriously and take action.
Most people thinking about suicide will give some clues or warning signs to those around them. This might include:
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Talking about feeling worthless, helpless, hopeless or trapped
- Appearing anxious, agitated or irritable
- Having sudden mood swings
- Changes in appearance such as not showering regularly, no longer wearing make-up or dressing poorly
- Changes in sleep habits – either difficulties sleeping or sleeping for longer
- Withdrawing from family, friends and social activities
- Taking time off work
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Acting recklessly or engaging in risky behaviours
- Harming or injuring themselves
- Putting their affairs in order or planning their funeral
- Talking about suicide or having had a previous suicide attempt or attempts
If you are concerned that someone might do something to harm themselves, it’s important to ask, to show that you care and to offer help. You shouldn’t worry that asking someone if they are considering suicide might put ideas in their head. Instead, reaching out and connecting with them could save their life.
Beyond Blue have some helpful tips for speaking with someone you are worried about, including when to ask, conversation starters and what to say and not say. These can be found on the Beyond Blue website.
What else can you do?
- Help them to develop a safety plan to use when they are feeling unsafe or suicidal. This is a something they can refer to, to remind themselves of reasons to live, family and friends they can talk to, and ideas of activities to do when they’re alone and feeling vulnerable. Beyond Blue have a free suicide safety planning app, Beyond Now, which is available for smartphones or online.
- Support them to get the professional help they need. This could be from their doctor, a mental health professional or their local mental health crisis service. There are also telephone helplines including The Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467), Lifeline (13 11 14) and Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800)
- If you think they are at risk of immediate harm, call emergency services or take them to your local hospital emergency department. Don’t leave them alone.