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Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings

If someone has thoughts and feelings about suicide, it’s important to take them seriously.

If someone has attempted suicide or is in an emotional crisis, they may need emergency medical attention.
Call your local mental health crisis assessment team or go with them to the emergency department (ED) at your nearest hospital.

If they are an immediate physical danger to themselves or others, call 111.

If you're worried that someone might be thinking about suicide, don't be afraid to ask them directly.

A person who is thinking about suicide might not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. They might feel ashamed of how they're feeling, like they don't deserve help, or like no-one can help them. People who feel suicidal often feel like they are alone and that their family, whānau and friends would be better off without them. Most people who attempt suicide don’t want to die – they just want their pain to end or can't see another way out of their situation.

Lots of people feel suicidal at some time in their lives. It can be impossible to have hope that things will get better.

Support from people who care about them, and connection with their own sense of culture, identity and purpose, can help them to find a way through.

Keeping an eye out

Most people who are feeling suicidal or thinking about killing themself will try to let someone know, but they often won't say so directly.

If someone shows one or more of these signs, it doesn't necessarily mean they are suicidal, but they may need support. You might notice they are:

  • Telling you they want to die or kill themselves
  • Accessing things they could use to hurt themselves, like a rope or gun
  • Reading or writing about suicide online, or posting photos or videos about suicide
  • Becoming obsessed with death
  • Becoming isolated or withdrawn from whānau, family and friends
  • Not really coping with any problems they may be having
  • Showing changes in mood - becoming depressed, angry or enraged
  • Self harming - for example cutting skin or taking an overdose
  • Feeling worthless, guilty, whakamā or ashamed
  • Having no hope for the future
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings or thoughts
  • Losing or gaining a lot of weight, or having unusual eating patterns
  • Sleeping a lot more than usual, or not getting enough sleep
  • Losing interest in life, or things they used to enjoy
  • Giving away possessions, paying back debts or 'tying up loose ends'
  • Suddenly calm or happy after you know they have been depressed or suicidal

Some people who are suicidal might not show these signs, and some of these signs may not be obvious. People who feel suicidal might try to hide what they are going through or pretend they are okay.

If you think that someone might be at risk, pay attention to changes in their behavior, trust your instincts and ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide.

Healthy conversations

If you are worried that someone is suicidal, ask them. It could save their life. Asking about suicide in a supportive way will not put the thought in their head, and it will help them to know you care and take them seriously.

  • Ask them directly about their thoughts of suicide and what they are planning. If they have a specific plan, they need help right away
  • Ask them if they would like to talk about what’s going on for them and be patient. Remember that they might not want to open up straight away, but letting them know you are there for them is a big help
  • Listen and don’t judge. Even if you can't understand why they are feeling this way, accept that they are
  • Take them seriously and let them know you care
  • You don't need to have all the answers, or to offer advice. The best thing you can do is be there and listen
  • Try to stay calm, positive and hopeful that things can get better
  • If they are comforted by prayer or karakia, invite them to pray with you
  • Do not agree to keep secrets about their suicidal thoughts or plans. It's okay to tell someone else so that you can keep them safe
  • Let them talk about their thoughts of suicide – avoiding the topic does not help. Ask them if they've felt this way before, and what they did to cope or get through it. They might already know what could help them
  • Don't pressure them to talk to you. They might not want to talk, or they might feel more comfortable talking to someone who is not as close to them

Taking action

In a crisis:
 

If someone has attempted suicide or you're worried about their immediate safety, do the following:

  • Call your local mental health crisis assessment team or go with them to the emergency department (ED) at your nearest hospital
  • If they are an immediate physical danger to themselves or others, call 111
  • Stay with them until support arrives
  • Remove any obvious means of suicide they might use (e.g. guns, medication, car keys, knives, rope)
  • Try to stay calm and let them know you care
  • Keep them talking: listen and ask questions without judging
  • Make sure you are safe

Supporting someone who feels suicidal:
 

If you're supporting someone who is suicidal, don't try to handle the situation by yourself. Seek support from professionals, and from other people they trust including family, whānau or friends.

  • Help them to find and access the support they need from people they trust: friends, family, kaumātua, religious, community or cultural leaders, or professionals
  • Support them to access professional help, like a doctor or counsellor, as soon as possible. Offer to help them make an appointment, and go with them if you can
  • If they don't get the help they need the first time, keep trying. Ask them if they would like your help explaining what they need to a professional
  • Don't leave them alone – make sure someone stays with them until they get help

When someone is recovering after they have made a suicide attempt, or have felt suicidal, be prepared to be there, offer support and stay involved. Recovery can take time.

  • Keep listening to them and don’t avoid talking about suicide or the hard things in their life
  • Don't give up on them and try not to lose contact with them, even if it seems like they are ignoring you
  • Help them feel there is hope of things getting better – identify positive things in their life
  • If they don’t want to talk with you, ask other people you both trust to support them – friends, family or whānau members, youth workers or others
  • Help them access a support service. You could offer to go with them or help them to make appointments
  • Encourage and support them to do the things they enjoy, keep physically active and connect with others
  • Accept them for who they are and let them know you care
  • When they're ready, support them to make plans for their future, solve problems and set goals

It’s important for you to look after yourself - make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating properly and relaxing.

  • Be kind to yourself, and take time out when you need to. Being in this situation can be very difficult, and you can’t do everything
  • Find someone you can talk to about this – a friend or family member you trust, or a counsellor
  • It's not helpful to blame yourself if someone close to you attempts suicide

Resources

Suicide Prevention Helpline

Confidential Helpline: 0508 82 88 65

Provides support, information and resources to people at risk of suicide, family/whānau, friends affected by suicide and people supporting someone with suicidal thoughts and/or suicidal behaviours. Provided by Lifeline Aotearoa.

Youthline

Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has great information for youth dealing with challenging situations including how to cope with suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Mental Health Foundation – A-Z Suicide: Worried about someone?

This information is for whānau, families, friends, colleagues, teachers and classmates of people who are distressed or showing suicidal behaviours (eg,attempted suicide, self-harm and suicidal thinking).

Guidelines for Supporting Young People with Stress, Anxiety and/or Depression

Developed under the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project, this online resource aims to help anyone who a young person confides in about supporting their wellbeing, including support for mild to moderate mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and mild depression.

The Guidelines are designed to support people ‘walking alongside’ a young person to help them access mental health advice and support.

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