Worried about a suicidal mate

This section outlines some of the immediate things you can do if you’re worried about someone who is distressed or showing suicidal behaviours (eg, attempted suicide, self-harm and suicidal thinking). Taking action on the following things is not easy, but if you have concerns you have to step up. Mates are there for each other in the good and the bad.

Worried about a suicidal mate

It’s important to take them seriously

If you're worried that a mate might be thinking about suicide, don't be afraid to ask them directly.

It can be really hard to tell someone you care about that you are feeling suicidal. If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, thank them for telling you, and invite them to keep talking with you. Let them know there is help available to them.

Encourage them to get help and talk to someone about what they are going through.

A person who is thinking about suicide might not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. They might feel ashamed of how they're feeling, like they don't deserve help, or like no-one can help them.

People who feel suicidal often feel like they are alone and that their family, whānau and friends would be better off without them.

Most people who attempt suicide don’t want to die – they just want their pain to end or can't see another way out of their situation.

If you are worried that your mate is suicidal, ask them. It could save their life

  • Asking about suicide in a supportive way will not put the thought in their head.
  • Ask them directly about their thoughts of suicide and what they are planning. If they have a specific plan, they need help right away.
  • Ask them if they would like to talk about what’s going on for them with you or someone else. They might not want to open up straight away, but letting them know you are there for them is a big help.
  • Listen and don’t judge. Take them seriously and let them know you care.
  • Help them to find and access the support they need from people they trust: friends, family, kaumātua, faith, community or cultural leaders, or professionals.
  • Don't leave them alone – make sure someone stays with them until they get help.
  • Support them to access professional help, like a doctor or counsellor, as soon as possible. Offer to help them make an appointment, and go with them if you can.
  • If they don't get the help they need the first time, keep trying.
  • Ask them if they would like your help explaining what they need to a professional.

Signs to look for in someone you are worried about

Most people thinking about taking their own life will try to let someone know, but they often won't say so directly.

If someone shows one or more of these signs, it doesn't necessarily mean they are suicidal, but they may need support. You might notice they:

  • Tell you they want to die or kill themselves
  • Access things they could use to hurt themselves, like a rope or gun
  • Read or write about suicide online, or post photos or videos about suicide
  • Become obsessed with death
  • Become isolated or withdrawn from family, whānau and friends
  • Don’t seem to be coping with any problems they may be having
  • Have changes in mood – becoming depressed, angry or enraged
  • Hurt themselves – for example, cutting skin or taking an overdose
  • Feel worthless, guilty, whakamā or ashamed
  • Have no hope for the future
  • Use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings or thoughts
  • Lose or gain a lot of weight, or have unusual eating patterns
  • Sleep a lot more than usual, or stop getting enough sleep
  • Seem to have lost interest in life, or things they used to enjoy
  • Give away possessions, pay back debts or 'tie up loose ends'
  • Stop taking their medication
  • Suddenly seem calm or happy after they have been depressed or suicidal

Some people who are suicidal might not show these signs, and some warning signs may not be obvious. People who feel suicidal might try to hide what they are going through or pretend they are okay.

If you think that someone might be at risk, pay attention to changes in their behaviour, trust your instincts and ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide. 

And remember, if you consider it a serious crisis or that your mate needs urgent help, do the following: