If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call Lifeline - 13 11 14 or 000
Suicide can be an uncomfortable and painful topic. It can be very confronting – whether we are thinking about suicide ourselves or we know someone who is. Feeling anxious about this is understandable.
Most of us have had times when we've been distressed, and have felt vulnerable. At times, some of us may have had thoughts of doing something to end the pain, but not necessarily wanting to die.
Suicidal behaviour is about a person wanting to end great emotional pain. A person going through this may feel trapped and alone, along with a sense of despair, helplessness, and worthlessness.
Suicidal behaviour is complex, with many influencing factors. Dealing with stressful or traumatic past or present events, death, separation, loss, bullying, mental illness, alcohol and drugs can play a role in causing emotional pain. Other factors include: life-changing events, family history and relationships, work, education, and social pressures.
It isn't uncommon for a person having suicidal thoughts to feel ashamed, or worried that people are not going to be understanding or supportive. Some of these attitudes have arisen from history, and myths in our community that taking one's life is weak, cowardly, or attention-seeking.
Are you experiencing suicidal thoughts?
If you are in crisis or at risk of immediate danger, call Lifeline - 13 11 14 or 000
If you are experiencing great pain, perhaps feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, and that there is nothing to live for, there is help and support available.
Do you have someone you can talk to? A person you trust and feel comfortable with? Are you alone? Could you call someone? Go and visit them or invite someone to visit you?
Seek professional and/or peer support and help; there are options, small steps that can help you feel better and get you through this painful time. Try to distract yourself, perhaps by playing some music, going for a walk, talking to a peer, journalling.
You don’t have to experience this alone. Support is available. Be kind and gentle with yourself.
Surviving a suicide attempt
Following a suicide attempt, you may find yourself in hospital, depending on the degree of your injury. You may experience a mix of emotions: shame, anger, and guilt, among many other complex feelings. You might also have these feelings about others around you – family, friends, work mates. You may feel physical pain, discomfort, or illness from your experience. This is understandable.
It will take time to heal. There are options you can consider together with your chosen support person – whether a family member or other carer – and with your health professional.
Signs and symptoms of suicidal thoughts
There are a few signs that can indicate that a person may be having suicidal thoughts. A few examples are: expressing feelings and thoughts of despair or worthlessness, and not caring about themselves (including physical appearance and hygiene). Some of the other signs are: feeling unmotivated to take part in activities that were once enjoyed, withdrawing from family, friends and others, giving personal belongings away, and seeming to be "putting things in order".
A "tipping point" may be an event or trigger that may set off a person's vulnerability and lead to thoughts possibly becoming suicidal behaviours.
Helping someone who may be having suicidal thoughts
Suicidal thoughts do not always result in the person making an attempt to take their life, but it's crucial to help them find the right help as soon as possible.
If you are concerned about someone in your life possibly having suicidal thoughts, there are a few things you can do immediately:
- Ask if they are safe, or if they are thinking about suicide, dying, or taking their life. Consider your body language, stay calm, be gentle and kind.
- Listen compassionately, ask open questions in a way that encourages the person to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Have a conversation.
- Be patient; communicate in a way that conveys acceptance and respect for the person and what they are going through.
- Don't give your opinions or make negative or unkind comments.
- Remember that this isn't about fixing the person's problems.
- Acknowledge that it's okay to experience and express pain.
- Don't victim-blame; what the person is experiencing is not their fault.
- The person is not weak, a coward or selfish; they are in pain.
- Don't tell them to consider their family's feelings, or that this is selfish.
- Don't criticise, or tell them others have it worse, or that they have a lot to be grateful for.
- Don't ignore the person or walk away.
- Let them know that many people can experience these thoughts, but there is support available.
- This isn’t about a person seeking attention; it’s about feeling valued and cared for, instead of feeling like a burden. We all need human attention. It is important for our wellness.
- Reassure the person you will stay, ask them if you can take them to a doctor, or if they have a support person who you can contact.
Caring for someone who has survived a suicide attempt, or is experiencing suicidal thoughts
As a carer or support person of someone who attempts to take their life, you may experience a range of complex feelings like shock, sadness, numbness, anger, confusion, and guilt. This is to be expected.
In the early stages you may not know how to react, what to say, or how to support someone in this situation. There are resources below that can help you cope during this time.
It is important you ask for help if you are unsure of how best to support a person in crisis. Don’t ignore self-care; this is critical. Doing something for yourself, no matter how small, will enable you to better support the person you are caring for. You may find these pages on how to support someone and support for carers useful.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help right now, call Lifeline - 13 11 14 or 000
Coping with suicide bereavement
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one by suicide, the pain and grief will be intense, difficult, and traumatic. It is very important to find someone to support you and, if possible, stay with you. Seeking professional support is a valuable next step. You can find links to support services below.