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How to approach talking about Suicide

18 August 2021

Casey wants to empower Western Australians to become suicide prevention champions in our community by giving them the tools to approach a someone they are worried about and ask this important question. 

“Suicide.”

It can seem like an uncomfortable word when said out loud.

Uncomfortable because we might not know how to respond if we ask if someone is having thoughts of suicide and the answer is yes. Casey was apprehensive to use the word so directly before starting as a Crisis Supporter at Lifeline WA.

Once she went through the training, Casey soon learnt that “you cannot underestimate the power of listening, validating, and providing a safe space to talk openly about suicide”.

So how can we do this - talk about suicide?

To begin with let’s bust the myth that if we talk or ask about suicide, we could plant the idea in their minds – this is a myth-BUSTED.

In fact, by asking, we show the person that we care, take them seriously, and can hold a safe space for them to talk about their thoughts of suicide.

When asking about suicide we should ask someone directly and with context.

For example:

I have noticed you’re not yourself lately and you have mentioned being overwhelmed, are you having any thoughts of suicide?”

If the response is no, an opportunity has been provided to show you’re someone who is open to talking about suicide. 

If the response is yes, it is possible to feel a variety of emotions, this is a normal reaction to what may be a new experience.


What happens next?

Follow these steps:

  1. Is the person safe right now? In a safe place? If the person is not safe or you are concerned for their safety, call 000. Remember the emergency services receive calls from people concerned about others, they will guide and support you.
  2. If the person is in a safe place, stay present and gently explore with them how they are feeling, what’s going on for them?
  3. Discuss what support are you able to provide or not. Is it safe for them to be alone?
  4. Encourage them to seek further support. Ask them who this may be?
  5. If the person is unsure of further supports, a General Practitioner may be a good place to start.
  6. Include in your conversation a 24-hour, 7-day crisis line for example Lifeline 13 11 14.
  7. It is important to avoid promises/agreements of not telling anyone else. Rather encourage further support.

If you are worried about someone, maybe you’ve noticed a change in someone you know, finding the time to approach and to ask the question “are you thinking about suicide” could save a life.

It is important keep in mind to seek support for yourself if you feel impacted by the conversation or the ongoing support you may provide.

Lastly: Take care of you and your own well-being. You matter. There is support here for you too. You can call 13 11 14 and let us guide through this conversation and any feelings that come up after that conversation.


Toolkit | helping someone at risk of suicide: https://www.lifeline.org.au/media/wyjpzxw5/web_sept_ll-4pp-tool-kit_help-someone-at-risk-of-suicide.pdf

Information | I am worried about someone: https://wa.lifeline.org.au/get-help/i-m-worried-about-someone/

How to ask if ‘are you ok?’: https://www.ruok.org.au/how-to-ask

How to support someone: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/supporting-others/what-to-do-if-someone-you-know-is-suicidal


Written by Casey Metcalf