One of the best things you can do if you think someone may be feeling suicidal is to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to listen to what they say.
Talking about someone's problems is not always easy and it may be tempting to try to provide a solution. But often the most important thing you can do to help is listen to what they have to say.
If there is an immediate danger, make sure they are not left on their own.
It's also important not to make judgements about how a person is thinking and behaving. You may feel that certain aspects of their thinking and behaviour are making their problems worse. For example, they may be drinking too much alcohol.
However, pointing this out will not be particularly helpful to them. Reassurance, respect and support can help someone during these difficult periods.
Asking questions can be a useful way of letting a person remain in control while allowing them to talk about how they're feeling. Try not to influence what the person says, but give them the opportunity to talk honestly and openly.
Open ended questions such as "Where did that happen?" and "How did that feel?" will encourage them to talk. It's best to avoid statements that could possibly end the conversation, such as "I know how you feel" and "Try not to worry about it".
Getting professional help
Although talking to someone about their feelings can help them feel safe and secure, these feelings may not last. It will probably require long-term support to help someone overcome their suicidal thoughts.
This will most likely be easier with professional help. Not only can a professional help deal with the underlying issues behind someone's suicidal thoughts, they can also offer advice and support for yourself.
Find out more about getting help for suicidal thoughts.
For more detailed information about helping someone with suicidal thoughts, the charity Rethink Mental Illness has a factsheet available about supporting someone with suicidal thoughts.
Helping someone with a mental illness
If someone who has previously been diagnosed with a mental illness has suicidal thoughts, contact a member of their care team or the centre or clinic where they were being treated.
If you don't have these details, contact your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department and ask for the contact details of the nearest crisis resolution team (CRT).
CRTs are teams of mental healthcare professionals, such as psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, who work with people experiencing severe psychological and emotional distress.
For more information about CRTs, the charity Rethink Mental Illness has a crisis teams factsheet you can download.