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Talking about suicide is a protection for life.

Talking about suicide is a protection for life. You can help someone who is thinking of taking their life.

Why do people think about suicide?

A person who thinks of suicide often feels isolated and alone, and may feel that nothing or no-one can help or understand his or her psychological pain.

When you cannot see any other way to deal with the despair and pain, suicide may seem like the only way out. When everything feels hopeless it can feel as if there is no choice.

Risk factors and warning signals

Critical life events, such as:

Loss of a loved one, a relationship, employment, status, money.

A big disappointment, failed exam or exams, missed promotion, harassment, violation.

Illness such as depression, psychosis, severe physical illnesses, substance abuse.

Changes in behaviour:

Stay aware and observant if you become worried that someone has changed and are no longer like they used to be. For example, if the person is moody, sad and withdrawn, talking about feelings of despair, feeling helpless and useless, no longer cares as much about their appearance, is expressing thoughts about death through drawings, stories, songs and is saying goodbye to people in their environment and / or giving away possessions. Some people engage in risky and self destructive behavior. Sometimes a suicidal person can be perceived as unusually quiet of their surroundings. Be aware of this as it may indicate a tacit decision to proceed with his suicide plan.

What can you do to help?

Most people who think of taking their life, get through the crisis. Help and support from family, friends and professionals is often an important part of it. Here's some advice.

1. Do something now

You can save lives by reaching out a helping hand. Do not assume that things will get better / go away without help, or that he / she will seek help on their own.

2. Be aware of your own reaction

A common reaction is fear, and the impulse to ignore the situation and hope it goes away by itself. If you do react, it might be good to get help from someone you trust, to be able to regain the ability to be supportive. You can also feel the need to find a quick solution to get her / him feel better.

3. Be available

Spend time with him / her and show care and concern without being judgmental, angry or upset. Ask him / her to talk to you - listen carefully. Some problems seem more manageable when you put them into words.

4. Ask about suicide

The only way to find out if someone is thinking about suicide is to ask about it. It can be difficult, but it will show that you have noticed something, and are listening.

Talking about suicide will not awaken suicidal thoughts, instead it encourages someone to talk about their feelings and often can help people to feel relieved. It is only by talking to the person about what is going on, that you can help him/her to seek the help that is needed.

Do not make an agreement with someone that their thoughts of suicide should be kept a secret.

5. Controlling safety

If someone intends to commit suicide, it is important to know how much and how for how long these thoughts have existed. For example, you could ask the following questions:

Have you decided how and when to commit suicide?

Do you have access to funds or have you thought of ways to find the means of carrying out your plan?

What help do you have access to in order to feel better and feel more secure?

You can also ask how you can help and support him / her to find support, happiness and strength e.g. from their family, friends, pets, religious beliefs, their own inner strength.

6. Make a decision about what to do and how you will overcome the current situation

Now that you have found out about his/her safety, it is time to discuss the next step, together. You may need the help of others to encourage him/her to seek professional help - or to take a first step to get help from, for example, a partner, parents or close friends.

First Aid for mental health

Assess the situation, get in touch
Listen openly and without prejudice
Offer support and information
Encourage the person to seek professional help
Support the person to find other helpful resources

7. Help and support is available

Health centre or clinic
Psychiatric department
Staff at the school: e.g. teachers, school nurse, psychologist, social worker, form teachers, after school staff
Youth clinic
Priest, deacon

Contact information

National Helpline 020 22 00 60, every day 13.00-22.00

Mental health information register

On duty priest via 112, every day 21.00 -06.00

On duty neighbour 08-702 16, every day, 21.00 - 06.00

BRIS - childrens helpline 116 111, mon- fri 15.00 - 21.00, weekends 15.00 - 18.00

BRIS adult helpline 077-150 50 50, mon - fri 10.00 - 13.00

On duty helpine for adopted children 020-64 54 30, tuesday 18.00 - 21.00

Hbtq kojan for bi- and homosexual young people

SPES - National Association for suicide prevention and support for family and survivors 08 34 58 73, every day 19.00 - 22.00

You can help the person to prepare for the discussion when he/she has decided to seek help. Offer to go with him/her. After the meeting, make sure that the issue of suicide was raised, and ask what help was offered. Help the person to follow up the recommendations that were made.

8. Convey hope - trust - ask for a promise

Thoughts of suicide can sometimes return and when they do, it is important for the person to ask for help and tell someone about their feelings. Ask the person to promise to ask for help. It makes it more likely he/she actually does. Show your commitment and willingness to understand - to convey hope.

9. Take care of yourself

If you help someone who has suicidal thoughts, you must be sure to take care of yourself, as it is emotionally stressful to be a support to someone who is suicidal, and especially for a long time. Make sure you are not alone in this, that you have someone to talk to, for example, friends, family or someone professional.

10. Stay around

Suicidal thoughts do not disappear without the suicidal person experiencing some form of change in life. The persons life situation, feelings and thoughts about suicide can change. The experience of support can be a help in dealing with suicidal thoughts. It is important that family, friends and other important people remain active.

Suicidal thoughts do not disappear by themselves. One needs help to move away from the thoughts committing suicide. You can help!

This information has been produced by HFS: Hälsobefrämjande hospital and health care organisations in collaboration with Akademiska hosptal, Västerbottens county council and Östergötland County.

Uppdated from Noll självmord i Stockholms län. Clinical facts checked by Daniel Frydman, Psychiatrist. March 2011.