As a friend or family member you are well placed to notice if someone close to you is struggling to cope following a suspected suicide.
There are some things to keep in mind when offering support.
Try to be accepting and open-minded.
Let them know you are there for them, whatever the circumstances. Assure them that it’s good to talk about how they feel, and they have your support.
Don’t try and come up with reasons for a suicide or place the blame on anyone. It’s unhelpful to say anything that may suggest that suicide was a reasonable solution for that person. Saying something like “it’s probably for the best” for example, is of no comfort and can be harmful.
If necessary, offer to help them get support
You can help them look for support by contacting a tutor, GP, university counselling service, bereavement specialist or talking to us at Samaritans. Samaritans have a list of other sources of support that may also be useful.
Try not to take it personally if they are unwilling to talk to you about what has happened. Everyone has their own way of coping. They just need to know they have support from you if and when they need it.
Encourage them to seek help elsewhere if they are worried about someone else too.
Be aware of your own feelings
Be honest with yourself about how their reaction is affecting you. If you are struggling with your feelings, talk to us at Samaritans or seek other help.
Remember that there will be many people affected.
Suicide has a ripple effect and impacts in different ways all the people that someone has been connected to. Everyone who has been affected by a suicide needs to be reassured that they are not alone and that help is available, should they need it.
There may be a funeral or a ceremony held to remember the deceased.
Your friend or family member may or may not wish to attend. They may need extra support before or after the event.
There may be an inquest
Your friend or family member may be asked to go. They will need extra support during this time.
You can find out more about this process on the government's coroner's inquest website.
Be aware of the effects of the media
Sometimes people who knew the person who has died are approached directly by journalists for comment. They are under no obligation to speak to them.
If you do comment, it’s important to remember not to go into detail about the suicide, and to focus on how everyone is feeling and how to seek help.
Be aware of social media
It can be both helpful and unhelpful as a way of communicating following a death. It is important to express feelings in a safe way and support others online. Look out for what is being posted and try to lead by example. Express feelings and emotions rather than glamourising or sharing details of the suspected suicide.
Remember that many people, including staff at the university, will be managing difficult emotions. When talking to others, the best approach is to be respectful of the wishes of the bereaved family. Always encourage others to seek help if they need it.
Why do people take their lives?
There is often no single reason why people take their own lives. More often, it is due to a combination of circumstances which they feel powerless to change. Young people who take their own lives have often experienced difficulties built up over a long period of time, to the point where they can see no other way to stop the pain.
In most cases, that can be changed with the right level of support.
Are there warning signs that someone is feeling suicidal?
It can be very difficult to tell if someone is suicidal, especially if they find it hard to talk about their feelings. People in crisis react in different ways. Nevertheless, you may notice some behavioural changes, such as the individual becoming withdrawn or more animated.
Signs that someone might be having suicidal thoughts and feelings include:
- giving away their belongings
- seeing no way to resolve their fears or anxieties
- becoming more isolated from friends and family
- unusual displays of anger or impatience towards friends and family
- being tearful for no obvious reason
- not being able to cope with routine everyday events
- increased risk-taking
- using phrases such as “what’s the point anymore?”, “I don’t want to wake up”, “they’d be better off without me”.
If you are concerned about someone you know, encourage them to seek help.
If someone is talking about having suicidal thoughts and feelings, always take it seriously.
Supporting someone who is struggling to cope can be difficult. If you need to talk about how you are feeling, you can contact us at any time.