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 distressing and confronting, whether we are thinking about suicide ourselves or we know someone who is. Feeling anxious about this is understandable.
Suicidal behaviour is about a person wanting to end great emotional pain and distress. A person going through this may feel trapped and alone, along with a sense of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness.
Most of us have had times when we’ve been very 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 complex, with many influencing factors. For example, dealing with stressful and/or traumatic past or present events, life-changing experiences, death, separation, loss, a change in living circumstances, family history and relationships, conflict, bullying, mental illness, alcohol and drugs, work, education, social pressures, can play a role in causing emotional pain.
It isn’t uncommon for a person having suicidal thoughts to feel ashamed of what is happening, or to be 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
Immediately after a suicide attempt, you may find yourself in hospital, depending on the degree of your injury. You may experience a mix of emotions: shame, distress, anger, awkwardness, and guilt among many other complex feelings. You might also have these feelings about others around you - family, friends, work mates. You may be also feel physical pain, discomfort, or illness from your experience. This is understandable.
It will take time to heal. There are choices you can consider in consultation 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 few obvious signs that can indicate that a person may be having suicidal thoughts. A few examples are: expressing feelings and thoughts of hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness, not caring about themselves (including physical appearance and hygiene), feeling unmotivated to take part in activities that were once enjoyed, withdrawing socially from family, friends and others, giving personal belongings away, and seeming to be “putting things in order”.
A “tipping point” may be an event, occurrence or trigger that may set off a person’s vulnerability and lead to thoughts potentially 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 few things you can do immediately:
- Ask if they are safe, if they are thinking about suicide, dying, or taking their life. Consider your body and language, stay calm, be gentle and kind, show empathy, speak slowly, lower your voice tone.
- 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 insensitive comments.
- Remember that this isn't about fixing the person's problems.
- Acknowledge the person’s pain. It’s okay to experience and express pain.
- Don’t victim blame, it isn’t the person’s fault for what they are experiencing or feeling.
- The person is not weak, a coward or selfish; they are in pain.
- Don’t tell them to consider their families feelings, and consequences, or that this is selfish. The person is in distress and pain.
- 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 sometimes experience these thoughts, but there is help and support available.
- This isn’t about a person seeking attention; it’s about feeling “valued” and “cared for”, instead of feeling like a burden or imposition. We all appreciate human attention. It is important for our wellness.
- Reassure the person you will stay, ask them if you can call or 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 a loved one or someone you know who attempts to take their life, you may experience a range of complex feelings; shock, sadness, numbness, anger, confusion, 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 who is in such a crisis, and during their recovery. 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 this information 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 intensity of pain and grief will be intense, difficult, and traumatic. It is very important to find someone to support you, and potentially stay with you. Seeking professional support is a valuable next step. You can find links to support services below.