See, Say, Signpost - How to Support a Suicidal Friend

See, Say, Signpost - How to Support a Suicidal Friend

When someone you care about is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it can be a challenging and delicate situation. Your support and understanding can make a significant difference in their journey towards recovery.

We want to make sure our community is equipped to talk about mental health.

Here's a guide on how to help someone who is suicidal, including a useful tool (The Three S's) which may help in your conversations. 

Before We Start:


If someone’s life is at risk, you need to get emergency help. Make sure you are safe and contact emergency services. If that’s all ok, it’s time to chat.

1. Recognise the Signs (SEE)

The first S is "See' - Are you recognising any signs that could indicate someone is struggling with their mental health?

It's crucial to be aware of and recognise the signs. We've highlighted some common ones below:

- Abusing Substances: Has their consumption of alcohol or drugs increased? Are they stock piling medication?

- Behaviour:

  • Are they withdrawing from social situations and/or social media?
  • Are they making plans, wills, legal arrangements, or giving away their prized or expensive possessions?
  • Are they more angry or anxious than usual, or are they calm after struggling mentally? (This could be a sign that they've made a plan, and have accepted their decision to die by suicide).
  • Are they sleeping too much, or too little?

If you notice these signs, take them seriously and initiate a conversation.

2. Approach with Empathy and Openness (SAY)

Initiating a conversation about suicide requires sensitivity. Approach the person with empathy, expressing your concern without judgment. Use phrases like "I've noticed you've been seeming down lately, and I'm here to listen," creating a safe space for them to open up.

There is a common misconception that you cannot use the word "suicide" in these conversations. If you're concerned about a friend, family member, loved one, or member of the public, we encourage you to ask. 

There is a common misconception that if you mention the word "suicide" to someone who may be feeling suicidal, then that would push them to complete their suicide. 

However, using the word suicide will give that individual the opportunity to talk about how they're feeling. 

This S is SAY


  • Talking saves lives. Encourage them to talk to you, or their GP, or signpost them to helplines for people in emotional distress. 
  • Ask how they're feeling and if they are suicidal. Try again if they don't open up the first time - but be patient. If someone is feeling low and isolated they may not know who they can talk to openly about it. 
  • Listen and pay attention. Listen without interrupting or judging. You don't have to solve their problems but, if you feel you can, offer support.  When they share their feelings, listen actively and without judgment. Avoid offering immediate solutions or minimizing their struggles. Instead, focus on understanding their emotions and validating their experiences. Your support and presence can be powerful in itself.
  • Take care of yourself, supporting someone in distress can be difficult and stressful. Helplines are there for anyone in need. 

3. Encourage Professional Help - Signpost

While you can provide emotional support, it's crucial to encourage the person to seek professional help. Suggest contacting a mental health professional, their GP, or therapist. Offer to help them find resources, make the phone call with them, and accompany them to appointments (if you can), emphasising that seeking help is a sign of strength.

There are tonnes of brilliant mental health helplines out there which can provide support for individuals. We've linked some UK one's below, but for those who are checking this out overseas, you can visit our helpline page here for helplines in your country and region.

Samaritans UK & ROI:
Hotline: 116123 (free call from mobile and landline)
Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)

The Hope Project
Hotline: 0117 428 8930
(Target – men 30 to 64 yrs)

Breathing Space (Scotland)
Hotline: 0800 83 85 87

The Mix
Hotline (under 25yrs): 0808 808 4994

HOPELineUK (for under 35 yrs)
Hotline: 0800 068 41 41
SMS: 07786 209697

Hotline: 0800 1111

Hotline (National): 0800 58 58 58
Hotline (London): 0808 802 58 58

Hotline: 0300 304 7000

Hotline: 020 7263 7070

Rehab 4 Addiction (Addiction Helpline – open 24/7)
Hotline: 0800 140 4690
Mobile: 0345 222 3508
International: +44 345 222 3508

The Listening Place (London based free face to face support)
Hotline: 0203 906 7676

4. Stay Connected:

The Mental Health First Aid course and Suicide Lite course mention this, but always try to arrange a follow up with the individual who is seeking support. By doing this, you have a plan in place together to help them.

Maintain regular communication and check in on their well-being. Share your concern and let them know that you are there for them throughout their recovery journey. Consistent support can make a significant impact on their mental health, especially if they're feeling alone. 

Supporting someone who is suicidal requires compassion, patience, and a commitment to their well-being. By recognising the signs, approaching them with empathy, encouraging professional help, and maintaining consistent communication, you can make a positive impact on their journey towards healing. Remember, your role is that of a supportive friend; professional help is essential in addressing mental health challenges.

Remember the 3 S's: See, Say, Signpost. 

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