An ACT Government Website

This page contains basic information about suicide, why people take their own life, reducing risks, warning signs of suicide, supporting someone who is suicidal, and support after suicide.

If this is an emergency, please call 000 immediately.

Where to get help if you are experiencing suicidal distress

If your situation is life-threatening, call 000 immediately for help or go to your nearest emergency department.

There are also many other people, organisations and services that are available to provide support to you or someone you are worried about.

Find out where to get help with your mental health.

Suicide

Suicide is when someone ends their own life intentionally. In Australia around nine people die by suicide each day. These are people we love and care for and each death has an impact on the family, friends, carers, clients, and colleagues of the person who has died.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal feelings or distressing thoughts, it is important to talk about it and seek help. Talking about suicidal feelings does not increase a person’s risk for suicide and may assist the person to get the help they need.

There are many people and organisations available to help through this difficult time.

Find out where to get help with your mental health.

Why people take their own life

There are no simple explanations as to why people take their own life and often the reasons are not clear to others. A person's desire to take their own life may be driven by several factors. It is often related to a desire to escape intolerable emotional or physical pain or a sense of hopelessness.

Each person experiencing suicidal stress will have a unique situation. However, there are several known risk factors for suicide, including but not limited to:

  • poor physical or mental health
  • escalating self-harm behaviours
  • substance use
  • social or financial problems
  • discrimination
  • legal problems or imprisonment
  • lack of parental bonding
  • family violence or disharmony
  • lack of friends or breakdown of friendships
  • bullying, harassment or abuse
  • social isolation
  • frequenting suicide promoting websites or social media
  • insecure visa status as immigrant, asylum seeker or refugee.

Reducing the risk

Factors that can reduce the risk of suicide include:

  • good physical and mental health
  • financial security
  • self-esteem
  • spiritual or religious belief
  • a personal sense of meaning or purpose to life
  • personal resilience and problem-solving skills
  • being connected to family and school
  • responsibility for children, pets, or others
  • good family communication
  • a significant other
  • community involvement
  • receiving non-judgemental physical and mental health support.

Warning signs of suicide

It is distressing to realise that someone close to you may be considering taking their own life. It is often difficult to know what to say or what to do. Recognising warning signs is one way to support someone you are worried about.

Signs that someone could be thinking about suicide may include:

  • changes in behaviour, such as giving away precious objects or writing goodbye notes
  • withdrawing and making excuses not to engage with friends, family, work, or previously enjoyed activities
  • escalation in risky behaviour, such as self-harm or substance use
  • talking about feeling trapped, being a burden or being in unbearable pain
  • talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

If you recognise warning signs in yourself or others, it is important to let someone know so the right support can be found. Remember if it is an emergency dial 000. There are also many other people and organisations that can help.

Find out where to get help with your mental health.

Supporting someone who is suicidal

Stay calm and ask the person if they are thinking of suicide. People are often fearful that asking may introduce the thought. This is a myth, talking about suicide does not increase its likelihood.

Spend time with the person, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and how to get help.

Don’t agree to keep it a secret. The person’s safety is your main concern. You may need to talk to someone else, like a parent, teacher, friend, or call 000 to make sure that the person is safe. There are also many other people and organisations that can help.

Find out where to get help with your mental health.

Remember that supporting carers, friends, family and loved ones of someone who is at risk of suicide or has attempted suicide is also essential. This provides them with the understanding, resources, and compassion they need to foster healing and resilience in the face of crisis. Carers ACT can help link carers, friends, family and loved ones with supports.

What to do if someone has attempted suicide

Get medical help immediately – call 000.

Stay with the person, stay calm and administer first aid if safe to do so. Reassure the person that you will stay with them, and that help is on the way.

Once immediate danger has passed, encourage the person to seek and engage with ongoing support. People who have attempted suicide have a much higher risk of attempting suicide again in the days, weeks and months following.

Be aware of your own reactions, behaviours and emotions as supporting someone at risk of suicide is stressful. Take care of yourself by taking time out to relax and do things you enjoy, seek professional help if you need to.

Support after suicide

We are often prepared for the deaths of elderly parents, friends or relatives who have a serious illness, but we are rarely prepared for the impact of sudden death. We are usually even less prepared for the suicide of someone we know.

Reactions and emotions to suicide

Everyone reacts differently to tragic events, and those left behind after a suicide may experience a range of distressing emotions including:

  • shock
  • disbelief
  • denial
  • regret
  • anger
  • shame
  • sadness
  • rejection
  • despair
  • blaming
  • detachment
  • loss of confidence
  • guilt

This range of reactions emphasises the important and sometimes difficult task we all have when we want to help someone who is bereaved by suicide. Sometimes, we don’t know how to begin a conversation or know what to do or say.

People bereaved by suicide often describe how they felt stigmatised by those closest to them for not discussing what has happened.

When their friends have finally spoken, they very often say 'I didn’t know what to say' or 'I didn’t know what to do'.

How to support someone bereaved by suicide

You can best support a person bereaved by suicide by:

  • listening to the person's story or sit with them in their pain, you don’t need to have any answers. Sometimes this may be a time of silence
  • listen without judging. You cannot change what has happened or take away the pain, but you can help by being there, caring and listening
  • be prepared for any and all reactions
  • keep in touch on a regular basis, don’t abandon those mourning this loss. There may be times when your offers for help or company are refused, try again later
  • offer to do something practical such as making a meal, doing the shopping, or washing
  • give people time to begin their healing.

Don't:

  • ask for details about the death
  • blame the person who has died or give reasons for the suicide
  • avoid talking about the person who has died. It may be comforting for the bereaved to talk about their loved one
  • make judgements or assumptions about the person who died
  • use clich├ęs such as 'you must be strong' and 'life goes on'.