Suicidal feelings can range from being preoccupied by abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you, to thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.

The type of suicidal feelings people have varies from person to person, in particular in terms of:

Intensity of feeling — suicidal feelings are more overwhelming for some people than others. They can build up gradually or be intense from the start. They can be more or less severe at different times and may change quickly.

Length of feeling — suicidal feelings sometimes pass quickly, but could still be very intense. They may come and go, or last for a long time.

Signs that someone may not be okay

  • Feeling restless and agitated
  • Feeling tearful
  • Not wanting to talk to or be with people
  • Not wanting to do things you usually enjoy
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
  • Not replying to messages or being distant
  • Negative comments such as:
    – I want to give up
    – No-one would notice if I wasn’t here
    – I hate myself

How can I help someone who is feeling suicidal?

Always take it seriously – You don’t have to be able to solve their problems but, if you feel you can, offer support and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling.

Listen to them – Ask direct questions and don’t be afraid of frank discussions. Many people want to be given a chance to talk, but don’t want to burden anyone around them. Useful questions you might ask them include:

‘Have you talked to anyone else about this?’
‘Would you like to get some help?’
‘Would you like some support to get yourself some help?’
‘Do you have someone you trust you can go to?’

Encourage them to seek help – Talk together and discuss their options. If you can, encourage them to call one of the national helplines themselves.

Ask Samaritans to contact them – you can call on someone else’s behalf. You can ask them to contact whoever you’re worried about by phone, email or letter and they’ll contact them in the way you suggest with the details you provide. They won’t tell you anything the person you’re worried about shares with them, or whether they wanted support. The only information they can share with you is whether or not they managed to reach them. If they need advice or specialist support for a particular issue, Samaritans have put together a list of useful organisations including their contact details and opening times.

Getting help in an emergency

There may be times when a guest or volunteer needs to seek help more urgently, such as if they:

  • have harmed themselves and need medical attention
  • are having suicidal feelings, and feel they may act on them
  • are putting themselves or someone else at immediate, serious risk of harm.

In this case:

If they are not safe by themselves right now – as long as you feel able to do so, you should stay with them on the phone and help them call 999 for an ambulance.

If they can keep themselves safe for a little while – you can get quick medical advice by calling NHS Direct on 111 (England) or 0845 46 47 (Wales), or you could help them make an emergency GP appointment to see or speak to a doctor soon.

If they have support from others – Ask if they can contact or they want you to contact the person who provides support, this may be a professional, family member or friend.

If you require emergency services immediately – it is important that you don’t give the impression that you have the situation under control as this will reduce the priority. Be honest about the urgency by using words such as:

– Erratic and lacking capacity or deeply distressed and unable to comprehend logic
– You yourself feel unsafe and unequipped to deal with the situation alone
– Danger to themselves or themselves and others (if you believe they may be)

If you feel personally in danger, or that others are in immediate danger – you can dial 999 and ask for the police to help. You should not feel worried about getting someone in trouble as it’s important to put your own and their safety first.

Looking after yourself

Supporting someone in distress can be distressing in itself. If you’re helping someone who’s struggling, make sure you take care of yourself as well. Speak to your regional manager about how you are feeling or if you need to talk about how you are feeling to someone who doesn’t know you, remember you can call Samaritans on 116 123 or email on whenever you need.