Offering support to someone you're worried is suicidal

One of the best things you can do if you think someone may be feeling suicidal is to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to listen to what they say.

You might feel you need to try to provide a solution but the most important thing you can do to help is listen.

Avoid being judgemental

You may think that certain aspects of their behaviour are making their problems worse. For example, they may be drinking too much alcohol.

However, pointing this out will not be particularly helpful to them. Reassurance, respect and support can help someone during these difficult periods.

Warning signs of suicide

Emotional changes

A person may be at serious risk if they:

  • talk or write about death, dying or suicide

A person may also be at risk if they:

  • complain of feelings of hopelessness
  • have episodes of sudden rage and anger
  • talk about feeling trapped, such as saying they can't see any way out of their current situation
  • have sudden mood swings
  • lose interest in most things
Behavioural changes

A person may be at serious risk if they:

  • threaten to hurt or kill themselves
  • actively look for ways to kill themselves

A person may also be at risk if they:

  • have episodes of sudden rage and anger
  • act recklessly and engage in risky activities
  • self-harm - including misusing drugs or alcohol, or using more than they usually do
  • becoming increasingly withdrawn from friends and family
  • appear anxious and agitated
  • are unable to sleep or sleep much more than usual
  • talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
  • put their affairs in order, such as giving away possessions or making a will

If you notice any of these warning signs in a friend, relative or loved one, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. SAMH have information and advice on how to ask if you're concerned someone is thinking about suicide (PDF 484KB).

You can also ask for permission to share your concerns with their GP or if they have one, their care team.

Practical advice to support someone

SAMH has more detailed information about helping someone with suicidal thoughts.

They have specific information for:

There is also information for how to cope when supporting someone else. It's important that you also look after your own mental health.

YoungMinds have advice and resources for parents. You can also get help from your GP or by phoning 111.

Last updated:
21 June 2022