Community Toolbox

Supporting Someone You Know

Almost everyone who takes their own life gives some clue or warning. Possible indications that someone may be at risk of suicide include;

  • Discussing a desire for suicide, 'ending it', or plans to take one's own life;
  • Giving away possessions;
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness;
  • Change in mood- this may also include withdrawing socially or losing interest in something they once enjoyed;
  • Increased or unusual risky behaviour such as an increase in alcohol or other drug use;
  • Recent or past attempts to take their own life;
  • They have been diagnosed with a mental health issue combined with other signs; and
  • Significant life events such as job loss, death of a loved one including a pet or a relationship breakdown.

If you are concerned that someone you know is considering suicide, take immediate steps to keep them safe. Always take suicide seriously and help them to find effective help. Don’t assume that the person will get better without help or that they will seek help on their own. 

For immediate assistance phone 000 
or present to the nearest emergency department

What You Can Do

  1. Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask them. This shows you care and they’re not alone.
    It needs to be a direct question that can’t be misinterpreted: "Are you thinking about suicide?";
  2. Listen to them - Allow them to express their feelings and let them do most of the talking;
  3. Check their safety - If you are really worried don’t leave them alone. Remove any means of suicide including weapons, medications, drugs, alcohol, even access to a car. Get help from emergency services by phoning 000. You can also take them to the local hospital emergency department.
    In some situations they may refuse help and you can’t force them to access support. You need to ensure the appropriate people are aware of the situation, such as emergency services or friends and family members;
  4. Take practical steps to keep the person at risk safe - Talk about steps you can take together to keep them safe. This might include assisting them to find information about supports available or phoning a health professional together for advice;
  5. Get help - There are lots of services and people that can help and provide assistance. For further support call one of the numbers on this page. If they don’t feel they got the support they need the first time, it’s important to try again with someone else. Don’t give up; and 
  6. Look after your own emotional health - Supporting someone at risk of suicide can be overwhelming for most people and it’s important that you take steps to keep yourself safe. Prioritise time to take care of your own emotional health. If you would like to speak with someone about how you’re feeling you can phone one of the services at the bottom of this page.

If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment and need to contact someone for support, call through the National Relay Service:

  • TTY: Ph 133 677 and ask for 1300 22 4636.
  • Speak and Listen (SSR): Ph 1300 555 727 and ask for 1300 22 4636.
  • Internet Relay: connect to www.relayservice.com.au and ask for 1300 22 4636.

It’s important to remember that even though you can offer support, you are not responsible for the actions or behaviour of your friend or family member. If they are not willing to help themselves, it is not your fault.

What Workplaces Can Do To Prevent Suicide

Even if your workplace has never experienced the suicide of an employee that does not mean than an employee has never had thoughts of suicide, or that they have not been bereaved by the death of a loved one by suicide.

Workplaces are a critical partner in preventing suicide. Most people spend more time at work than they do at home, so it’s understandable that coworkers may be better placed to pick up on changes in appearance, behaviour or mood.

While suicide prevention may seem to be an endeavor that is too intensive for workplaces to take on, there are many prevention strategies that do not take much effort but yield tremendous results including;

  1. Disseminate information about health risks and supports available. This can be as simple as promoting your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a way of promoting help seeking. Some EAP providers or other local mental health service professionals are happy to provide "lunch-and-learn" sessions that increase awareness about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses that can lead to suicide. They can also address common concerns such as;
  2. Build policies and procedures around suicide prevention. This might involve establishing a flexible workplace in which "mental health days" and flexible scheduling are part of the culture of a mentally healthy workplace and are written into policy.
  3. Providing education and training options for all staff. See Education and Training section for more information;
  4. Reward mental wellness. Just as workplaces offer incentive programs for nutrition and fitness, workplaces can also create motivation and opportunities to maintain positive mental health. Be creative and get staff involved; and
  5. Support bereavement. When a suicide affects a workplace, employers should not underestimate the impact of this event. Promote an environment where staff feel comfortable talking about their thoughts and feelings so that they don’t feel the issue is diminished. EAP providers may also be able to provide some assistance related to how staff can be supported.

Workplaces can promote a suicide safer community in many ways and the benefits of creating a mentally healthy environment can mean at least one life saved.