Information for Friends and Family

A suspected suicide at a college or university can be a traumatic and distressing event, whether or not you knew the person very well.

This page provides information to help you support the people you know who have been affected and to help you understand your own feelings during this tough time.

Samaritans has a wealth of experience in supporting people going through difficult times. We hope that by sharing what we have learned with you, it may provide you with the knowledge and support you may need to help you and your friends and family cope with what has happened.

How do people respond to a suicide?

People cope with someone dying by suicide in different ways and not all reactions are the same. It often leaves people asking “why?” or “what could I have done?and coping with a wide range of difficult feelings including:

  • Anger
  • Betrayal
  • Confusion
  • Detached
  • Disbelief
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Hurt
  • Isolation
  • Numbness
  • Shock
  • Tearful

All of these feelings are normal immediately after or many months after losing someone. These feelings can sometimes be made worse by unhelpful responses by individuals, the community and the media. No matter how someone is feeling, it’s important they can express this in a safe way. Reassurance that their reactions are normal and that you are there for them is important. They will probably have many questions and may find it difficult to understand or come to terms with what has happened.

Some people find it harder to cope than others. This is especially true for young people who have experienced other stressful situations in their lives. Talk to someone if you are worried about your friend or family member’s reaction or behaviour.


How can I help the person I know?

Listen carefully to what they say, and ask about how they feel:

Give them the time and space to talk about what has happened. They may have lots of questions. Remember there are no easy answers to questions about why someone may wish to end their life. Suicide is complex and discussing details about the suicide itself is potentially harmful. It’s better to focus on remembering the person and not the way they died.

Steer conversations to positive coping methods: talking about feelings, supporting friends and building a stronger community.


When talking about suicide its important to remember:

  • Suicide takes away the possibility of things getting better
  • There are always solutions and people who will be there to help until things get better
  • Pain is only temporary and that things will improve but death is permanent


At this time the important messages to get across are:

Samaritans have a list of other sources of support you may find useful.

Next Page:

Read more about what to do when supporting others