What does ‘being there’ for someone involve?
The needs of a person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts will depend on their circumstances. For this reason, there isn’t one simple set of steps to follow.
What you can do, however, is provide a supportive presence, free of judgment. This creates a safe space for them to feel their feelings and express themselves, if they want to. Or to sit in silence and know they are cared for, if they want to.
How to listen
If the person you’re with does share how they’re feeling with you, it is usually better to listen and respond with open questions - not advice or opinions.
The important thing is to let the person know you will support them, without judgment, as far as you are able to. You don’t need to change what they are going through for them. Remember as well that it’s okay to decide that you are no longer able to help someone and to let them know you won’t be contactable for a while.
How being listened to can help
Chris describes how saying what you're feeling out loud and being listened to can help
Chris, Samaritans volunteer
If it feels appropriate, you can let the person you’re supporting know that you value them. Using your own words, you could say something like, ‘you’re important to me’.
The idea is not to make them feel guilty, but to let them know they are not worthless, and that they contribute meaningfully to the lives of others. Avoid expressions that centre around negative consequences of their actions, such as ‘I’ll be so upset if you die’.
Other ways to help
You can also offer to help with practical things they might need in the moment, like getting them a glass of water, calling the GP or getting in touch with their friends or family (with their permission). Or they might need you to watch TV with them or do an activity.
When they’re feeling able to think about next steps for looking after themselves, you can suggest you make a ‘safety plan’ together. A ‘safety plan’ will lay out steps for coping in a crisis, and help them make sure they have the support they need going forwards. You can complete one together, and both keep copies to refer to. It will also help you know how best to support them in the future. You can download a template in the next section.
Getting in touch with Samaritans
If the person you’re talking to would rather speak to someone they don’t know, you can suggest they call us on 116 123. Our lines are open 24/7, 365 days a year. Alternatively, they can email us on [email protected]
Or you can ask us to call them on their behalf. If we call and somebody else picks up, or it goes to voicemail, we won’t leave a message.
If they are in immediate danger the fastest way to get help is to call an ambulance on 999. We can call an ambulance for you, if you prefer.