Responding to Suicide Risk

Responding to Suicide Risk

Worried about someone? Perhaps you have noticed that a friend, family member or student is stressed or anxious and you are worried about whether they are depressed or even suicidal? If this is the case there are steps you can take to help right now.

If you are worried about someone right now, here is some helpful information:

The situation is urgent if:

  • The person says they intend to go and kill themselves immediately.
  • The person indicates they are going to cause immediate harm to someone else.
  • The person is putting themselves in immediate danger, for instance by walking into traffic, intending to jump from a high building, or holding something with the intention of causing harm to themselves or others (eg a glass, knife or substance they intend swallowing).
  • You reasonably believe the person has already done something to cause themselves harm, such as swallowing tablets or other harmful substances.

What to do:

  • If you can without causing delay, ask the person what they are going to do or if they have swallowed anything (you can pass this information on when you seek help).
  • If you can get help from another person, do so and ask them to dial 999.
  • Reduce risk to other people by asking them to leave the area.
  • Try to keep the person calm by keeping your own voice calm and quiet.
  • Don’t approach the person if this increases risk to yourself or them.
  • If you have to leave the person, try to remember enough information to give the emergency services a general description (male/female, rough age, height, clothes etc.).
  • After the situation has been resolved, talk it through with someone confidentially and seek your own support.

What not to do:

  • Do not do anything that puts yourself or other people at risk.
  • Don’t panic – always try to keep calm.
  • Never delay calling for help, by dialling 999. It is always better to explain doing something that turns out to be unnecessary, than not to take action which could prevent harm.
  • Don’t try to deal with the situation by yourself.

Be clear about your limits
There are many ways in which you can offer helpful support to someone who may be depressed. However, it is important that you are realistic about what you can’t do.

Be realistic with yourself and honest with the person about what your limits are. Depression is best dealt with by a professional. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Being clear about when and how you are available makes it easier to avoid blow ups or burn out.

It is unwise to find yourself the sole source of support, so make it clear that you won’t do this. Make sure that the person starts to build a support network of friends and family, as well as other appropriate help.