There is no one way to prevent suicide, but there are many ways we can offer care and support to someone who is suicidal.
We can listen and ask gentle, reflective questions that are guided by the person experiencing thoughts and feelings of suicide or situational distress. We also need to be guided by what will provide safety, not only for the person who is suicidal, but for ourselves as well.
The LGBTQ+ community has a long history of mutual aid. We can use this knowledge to continue the legacy of keeping each other safe from suicide.
We do this by supporting each other, challenging perceptions and assumptions of gender and sexuality, and recognising what systems and external factors might be causing harm or barriers to care in our communities’ lives.
By showing up for each other in crisis we can make a difference in preventing suicide.
Here are some suggestions of ways you can support someone who is experiencing thoughts and feelings of suicide.
Ask the person directly and reflect on what support is really needed
Not everyone who is having thoughts of suicide has a plan or intends to act on those thoughts. Sometimes people just need someone to connect with and talk to about how they are feeling.
It is important not to make assumptions about what support is needed when someone mentions thoughts of suicide. Sometimes, our initial thoughts on how to support someone can cause more harm.
If someone has put themselves in danger and are at risk of serious injury or death, reach out for immediate support by calling 000.
Check in with yourself and try not to panic
Finding out that someone you care about is thinking about suicide is hard. You might feel lost and not know what to do or feel triggered by previous experiences. That is ok. No one expects you to have all the answers.
When we fear for someone’s life, we might start to feel angry, want to control them or blame ourselves. Staying calm and allowing the person space to talk about what’s going on for them is important.
Check in with your body – what are you feeling in this moment? What do you need right now to stay calm and present?
Be honest with yourself and the person who is suicidal. If you do not feel like you can offer them support, try to find someone who can.
Gather Community and create a support team
Supporting someone who is feeling suicidal can be scary, exhausting and can lead to burn-out. Forming a community of care can be a great way to offer a range of different support systems and also encourages community connection. Many people in our community have either experienced thoughts of suicide or may be able to offer new ideas on how to help the person you care about. You do not have to do this alone. Ask the suicidal person who they trust and who they are comfortable with you contacting. It may be other friends, family (chosen or relatives), a doctor, or therapist/social worker. Reach out to these people and work together to create a support plan, some things to consider are:
Who can be there with the person in crisis?
Who can call or text them regularly?
If needed, who can take them to an appointment or crisis service?
If there are feelings of being overwhelmed during the process, here are some ideas of how to soothe yourself and take a break
Listen to the person and ask what they need
If someone tells us that they are thinking about suicide, it’s important to listen to them with openness and without judgement. Instead of assuming we have the answers, ask the person what support they need in this moment? Do they just need a friend to listen to them? Do they need help reaching out to support services?
Asking someone what they need in the moment, even if they’re not 100% sure of what they need, can help make sure we do the best we can to support them with their thoughts of suicide.
Gather community and create a support team
Many people in our community have either experienced thoughts of suicide or may be able to offer new ideas on how to help the person you care about. You do not have to do this alone. The more people you can have in the team, the easier it will be to care for yourself while caring for others.
Create a calm and safe environment
This is a good time to pull in your support team. Can you take turns calling or texting? Do they need practical support – do they need somewhere to stay, food dropped off, or cleaning around their home? Do they need to access a professional intervention? The more people you can have in the team, the easier it will be to care for yourself while caring for others.
Be honest about the support you need
To offer support and care to others, we need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. It can be easy to put all our care and attention into the suicidal person without realising how we are feeling.
Consider who you have in your life you can talk to and lean on. Do you need to speak to a support service? What can you do to soothe and nurture yourself?