Intervening when someone you know is in suicidal distress

If you are thinking about offering support to a friend or colleague who you suspect is in suicidal distress, here is are some steps to guide this conversation.

  1. Pick a place and time to maximise privacy.
  2. Start by expressing your concern and desire to help.
  3. Ask them directly if they have thought about suicide. Here are some ways to phrase this question: 
    • Are you having suicidal thoughts?
    • Are you thinking about killing yourself?
    • Are you thinking about ending your life?
  4. Keep the conversation or dialogue going, even if they won’t talk to you.
  5. Stay calm if they say yes.
  6. Listen and validate their struggle. 
  7. Tell them you want to connect them to any of these supports: 
    • their GP
    • a dedicated counselling service (such as Pieta) specialising in suicide-related behaviour, or
    • any other mental health service. . 
    You might help them make the call and / or accompany them to their first appointment. 
  8. Don’t promise to keep what they tell you a secret.
  9. Arrange a follow up call or meeting after this conversation.  
  10. Remember to take care of yourself - some self-care tips include having a conversation with a supportive friend or colleague, taking a walk or a short break from your desk.