​At a glance

The best way to respond to someone who says that they want to kill themselves is to stay calm, not panic and listen. It is possible if someone has chosen to tell you and talk about how they are feeling, that they will let you help them to get some support and assistance.

Thoughts about suicide can occur when people feel trapped with no way out or feel that their situation is hopeless.

If the person has told you they are thinking about killing themselves, then you should:

  • listen and encourage them to talk about their situation
  • show empathy for their situation and take them seriously
  • not leave them alone
  • discuss the ways that you can get them help and if they agree follow up and get the help (e.g. contact their doctor or call a mental health centre or crisis hotline for advice)
  • if the person does not want you to get help, you should advise them that you need to because you are legally obliged to do so as you are concerned for their safety.

Note:

  • It is important to let your supervisor know what has occurred and how it has been handled, so they can ensure that the relevant supports are put in place. Also ensure you follow your organisation’s reporting and recording requirements.
  • Completing specific training on how to respond to a person who is at risk of suicide may be of benefit.

Resources

Responding to warning signs
This article covers the warning signs of suicide and how to start a conversation. It includes key questions on whether a person intends to take their life, if they have a plan, the means and a timeframe.
Type: Article
Reading time: 5 minutes
Produced by: Beyond Blue

Having a conversation with someone you're worried about
This fact sheet provides helpful tips on the things you may want to consider and prepare for when having a conversation with a person who may want to harm themselves.
Type: Web page and videos | Closed captions
Reading/viewing time: 5 minute read and, videos .34
Produced by: Beyond Blue

Conversations matter when someone is thinking about suicide 
This fact sheet provides tips on what to do if someone is thinking about suicide. It covers the signs to take seriously, how to manage your thoughts and fears, and how to start the conversation.
Type: Fact Sheet 
Length: 8 pages
Produced by: NSW Health

Suicidal thoughts & behaviours guidelines
These guidelines provide an overview of the signs that a person might be feeling suicidal and how to approach and talk with someone who is talking about taking their own life.
Type: Guideline
Length: 4 pages
Produced by: Mental Health First Aid Australia

Stories of recovery and hope
In these podcasts, people share their stories of recovery and hope.
Type: Podcasts
Produced by: Beyond Blue

Lifeline Fact Sheets
These are a range of fact sheets, including: What does it mean to be suicidal? I’m worried someone I care about may try to take their own life, I tried to take my own life, and a range of other topics.
Type: Fact Sheet
Produced by: Lifeline

The National Communications Charter
The National Communications Charter is a unified approach and promotes a common language in mental health, mental illness and suicide.
Type: Charter
Produced by: Life in Mind

Mindframe
Mindframe is a national program supporting safe media reporting, portrayal and communication about suicide, mental ill-health and alcohol and other drugs. The guidelines are more broadly useful in developing communications.
Type: Website
Produced by: Mindframe 

Current as at: Tuesday 15 November 2022
Contact page owner: Mental Health Branch