Who Do We Tell?
One of the first problems we face when we decide to talk to someone about how we feel is working out who to speak to. We could reach out to a friend, family member, colleague, manager, teacher, faith leader, youth worker, doctor, our local emergency department or our local mental health team for some help and support. There will be someone who cares, despite the lies our brain tells us. If the person we tell is unable to help us or we feel as though they don’t understand, then we could try talking to someone else. There’s no rule anywhere that states that we’re only ‘allowed’ to talk to a certain number of people about our feelings.
How Do We Tell Them About Suicidal Thoughts?
Finding the words we need can be really difficult sometimes. It’s not easy to tell someone that we’re feeling suicidal. If talking to someone feels too difficult, there are loads of other ways we can communicate with them including writing it down, drawing it, sending a text, speaking over the phone, writing an email, or telling them without using the word ‘suicidal’, for example ‘I can’t cope with being alive any more’.
Have A Code
If we know someone well, then at a time when we’re feeling better, we could write a crisis plan which could involve setting up a code with them – a way to let them know that we’re suicidal without having to find any words at all. This could be something like texting a particular emoji that we don’t normally use, such as one of the hearts in a different colour. We could have a certain word that we use if ‘suicide’ is a difficult word for us, such as describing ourselves as a particular colour – our partner might know that if we say ‘I feel turquoise’, then it means ‘I feel suicidal’ and we don’t have to go digging around for words that we struggle to say. We might have an arrangement with someone where we just message them a single codeword, phrase, or GIF. It might be that a particular item we hold, a place we go, or an action we take signifies that we’re feeling especially low.
When we’ve decided who we want to speak to, it’s often helpful to plan in advance what it is that we want to say so that we’re not flustered. Our head can feel like it’s in a right old muddle when suicidal feelings bubble up and it can be difficult to extract words from that muddle and form understandable sentences. Writing it down, or thinking it through in our head, before we speak to someone can help to lower our anxiety levels. It can help us to say everything that we want to say without forgetting anything. It’s also helpful to decide when and where we want to speak to the person. Sometimes it can be easier to talk whilst doing something else. That way we don’t have to look at one another and it an feel less intense. For example, we could chat whilst on a walk or while cooking tea. Some of us might feel as though we want someone to come with us to a doctor or therapy appointment. There’s no shame at all in asking for a bit of back-up when facing difficult conversations.
Prepare For Their Response
We can control what we say and when we say it, but we can’t control how the person we speak to will respond. The person we speak to might be shocked, upset, or even angry about what we’ve told them. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have told them anything, it just means that it’s a lot for them to take in and to process. Sometimes the person we talk to will have to tell someone what we’ve told them. If we’ve spoken to a professional then they often have a duty to report anything we tell them that could indicate a risk to our lives or the life of someone else. Even if we’ve spoken to a friend or family member, they may still feel the need to speak to someone else, such as our GP. This doesn’t mean that we’ve done anything wrong or that we’re in any trouble – these policies are in place to help us to get the support that we need.
Use A Helpline
Some of us find that it’s especially difficult to talk to people who we know well or see on a regular basis. We might find it easier to talk a helpline about our suicidal feelings. If we struggle with talking on the phone then some helplines allow us to text them, email them, or even pop into one of their sites.
Be Proud And Keep Talking
Talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings can be incredibly difficult. It’s not easy to open up to others about the difficult things that we’re experiencing. We should be really proud of ourselves for talking about our suicidal thoughts. It’s important that we don’t just tell people about our suicidal thoughts once and then stop talking. We need to try and keep talking to those around us, to keep speaking to them about what’s going on for us, and to keep letting them help us. Keeping up with our self-care, being kind to ourselves, and trying to stay as safe as possible, can all help us to get through these difficult times and to get to a better place where our thoughts are less overwhelming. Suicidal thoughts and feelings are horrible to experience, but eventually, they do pass. Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it. Telling someone that you are suicidal is an incredibly difficult and brave act. It takes a lot of courage to share your thoughts about dying with another person. If you are unsure about how to start the conversation, we’re here to help! First, think about your answers to the following questions. It will help you process your thoughts and feelings:
- How long have these thoughts been happening?
- How frequently do these thoughts occur?
- What triggers or warning signs have you been experiencing?
- Do you have a plan, or have you decided on how you want to die?
- How can the person you tell support you?
You can start by telling the person that you have something important to tell them. Explain that you are telling them because you trust them. It’s okay to talk about how awkward or scared you feel about opening up. This will give them the opportunity to show support and love even before the “big reveal.” Here are some example sentences that can help you talk about your suicidal thoughts:
- For the past (day/week/month/year/__________), I have been thinking about suicide.
- I think about dying every (minute/hour/day/week/__________).
- I have been feeling (hopeless/trapped/unbearable pain/moody/empty/like a burden/angry/anxious/agitated/reckless/isolated/__________).
- I have struggled with (eating/sleeping/self-harm/driving recklessly/drinking more/having severe mood swings/overwhelming sadness/unexplained anger or rage/__________).
- I have thought about (a plan/a method/how I am going to kill myself/__________).
- I would like to (talk to a doctor or therapist/create a safety plan/find a support group/__________) and I need your help.
Who should I tell?
Think about who you want to support you through this. The suggestions below are just that: suggestions. Start with whichever option is most comfortable for you right now. Friends and family If you have supportive friends and family, opening up to them can be a great place to start. It can be a huge relief to open up to the people closest to you, since you no longer have to hide what you are feeling. You can also open up to coaches, teachers, or religious leaders—anyone in your personal life that you are close to. Professionals Professionals you can open up to about your mental health include doctors, therapists, or peer supporters. If you already see a doctor, that can be a great place to start—and they can help you find a therapist or any other specialists you may need to see. If you are in school, a school counselor can help you with this. Support groups Support groups are made up of people who have experienced similar things. They can meet in person or online. They talk about their daily lives, struggles, and strategies they have used to cope and thrive. It can be nice to feel like you belong to a community, and to hear about how other people have experienced the same things you have. Anonymous helplines Hotlines, warmlines, online support, or text lines can help, too. These are typically run by trained volunteers or employees whose job it is to listen to those who reach out. Talking to a stranger can help you feel safer about what you are sharing. Strangers can sometimes offer more objective feedback than the people who are more involved in your life. Here are additional tips to help start the conversation:
- Start with a text if talking face-to-face is too intimidating. It could be a short text message that says, “I have some important things on my mind, and I was hoping we can talk about it.”
- Find information online that might help you explain what you are going through. Print it and bring it with you when you are ready to talk.
- Take one of our free and confidential mental health tests. Print out your results to share with the person you plan to talk to.
- If you’re not quite ready to talk about suicidal thoughts, or if you don’t know who to trust, you can start by opening up about your mental health in general. The way they react to something like “I’ve been feeling so depressed and hopeless” can tell you a lot about how supportive they will be about suicidal thoughts.
Having a conversation about suicide can be difficult, intense, and uncomfortable—but it is a courageous step towards recovery and feeling like yourself again. Many people who struggle with their mental health have experienced suicidal thoughts, and you are definitely not alone. Just know that it does get better, and it starts with a hard conversation with the right person.
The idea of telling someone you are having suicidal thoughts can be daunting. You may be worried about how they will react or what will happen after you tell them. Although it feels hard to do, reaching out and telling someone how you feel is the best way to get support for what you are going through right now.
How to tell someone you are having suicidal thoughts
If you are having a hard time knowing how to start the conversation, here are some things to consider.
Deciding who to tell
When it comes to deciding who to open up to about this, try to find someone you trust. If possible, go to someone who might be in a position to support you, such as a parent or guardian, a teacher, or a counsellor. Otherwise, go to a friend or someone else in your life who you feel comfortable confiding in. If you are not ready to talk to someone you know, there are support organisations out there who can listen to you. Find out about suicide support services in your area. You can also speak to your GP who can let you know about support services in your area. Pieta House run a free, 24 hour helpline for people who are feeling suicidal and engaging in self harm. Call 1800 247 247 or text ‘Help’ to 51444 to get started (standard text messaging rates apply).
Starting the conversation with someone
Try to have this conversation in a quiet, private space where you’re less likely to be interrupted. Let the person know that there is something serious you want to discuss with them, and you would appreciate their full attention. Tell them what has been going on for you and how you have been feeling, including letting them know about your thoughts of suicide and self harm. Ask them if they can help to support you while you try to cope with these suicidal thoughts. If saying it out loud feels too difficult, consider writing it out in a letter and asking them to read it while you sit with them. You could also send a text message, but remember that it could take a while to get a response, and it is often easier to have important discussions like these in person. Learn more about how to open up to someone about your mental health.
Be prepared for any reaction
It is hard to know how a person will react to news like this. If it is someone you are close to, they might get upset. They could even appear frustrated or angry, especially if they are struggling to understand why you feel this way. Give them some time to process what you’ve told them, but let them know that you’re reaching out to them because you need their help and support. If you don’t get the reaction you were hoping for from the first person you open up to, keep reaching out to people until you find someone who can give you the support you need. Whatever their reaction is, it does not make what you are going through any less real or insignificant.
Let them know how they can help
Whoever you tell, the chances are they will want to help you in some way, but it can be difficult for them to know how to do that. Let them know what you need from them, whether it’s just to listen to you, to accompany you to a support service, or to help you make a safety plan to use when you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts. Telling them what they can do will allow them to better support you. If you don’t know what you need from them, that’s fine too – simply making them aware is a big step.
Give them some information
If they are struggling to understand or you think they might not know much about suicide, consider giving them some information. Direct them to the suicide content on SpunOut.ie or bring them with you to an appointment with your GP or support service where they can ask questions.
Seeking professional help
Although it is very important to have the support of your friends and family when struggling with something like suicidal thoughts, seeking professional help is the best way to address the way you are feeling. Visit your GP to discuss your options for finding support locally, or find out about suicide support services in your area. Pieta House offer services for people who are feeling suicidal and engaging in self harm. Call 1800 247 247 or text ‘Help’ to 51444 to get started (standard text messaging rates apply).
Traveller Counselling Service
If you are a young Traveller, and would like to speak to a counsellor who specifically works with the Travelling community, the Traveller Counselling Service can support you. The service works from a culturally inclusive framework which respects Traveller culture, identity, values and norms and works from a perspective of culture centred counselling and psychotherapy. They offer counselling both in person and online.
- Landline: 01 868 5761
- Mobile: 086 308 1476
- Email: [email protected]
Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
- Find out more about our text message support service
If you’re feeling like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone. Help and support is available right now if you need it. You do not have to struggle with difficult feelings alone.
Phone a helpline
These free helplines are there to help when you’re feeling down or desperate. Unless it says otherwise, they’re open 24 hours a day, every day. You can also call these helplines for advice if you’re worried about someone else. Information: Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Email [email protected] Information: Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
Visit the webchat page Information: Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – 9am to midnight every day
Text 07860 039967
Email [email protected] Information: Childline – for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 – the number will not show up on your phone bill Information: SOS Silence of Suicide – for everyone
Call 0300 1020 505 – 4pm to midnight every day
Email [email protected]
Message a text line
If you do not want to talk to someone over the phone, these text lines are open 24 hours a day, every day. Information: Shout Crisis Text Line – for everyone Text «SHOUT» to 85258 Information: YoungMinds Crisis Messenger – for people under 19 Text «YM» to 85258
Talk to someone you trust
Let family or friends know what’s going on for you. They may be able to offer support and help keep you safe. There’s no right or wrong way to talk about suicidal feelings – starting the conversation is what’s important.
Who else you can talk to
If you find it difficult to talk to someone you know, you could:
- call a GP – ask for an emergency appointment
- call 111 out of hours – they will help you find the support and help you need
- contact your mental health crisis team – if you have one
Is your life in danger?
If you have seriously harmed yourself – for example, by taking a drug overdose – or you feel that you may be about to harm yourself, call 999 for an ambulance or go straight to A&E. Or ask someone else to call 999 or take you to A&E.
Tips for coping right now
- try not to think about the future – just focus on getting through today
- stay away from drugs and alcohol
- get yourself to a safe place, like a friend’s house
- be around other people
- do something you usually enjoy, such as spending time with a pet
See more tips from Rethink
Worried about someone else?
If you’re worried about someone, try to get them to talk to you. Ask open-ended questions like: «How do you feel about…?» Do not worry about having the answers. Just listening to what someone has to say and taking it seriously can be more helpful. See Samaritans’ tips on how to support someone you’re worried about Read Rethink’s advice on how to support someone who is having suicidal thoughts Information:
Making a safety plan
If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or are supporting someone else, it may help to make a safety plan to use if you need it:
- the Staying Safe website provides information on how to make a safety plan, including video tutorials and online templates to guide you through the process
- you can also get information on planning for a mental health crisis from mental health charity Mind
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