Helping a mate who is suicidal

It can be hard for some men to express their feelings. They may be embarrassed or worried they’ll be seen as weak. Here MensLine Australia explores ways you can help a mate who may be experiencing feelings of suicide.

It can be pretty hard for some men to express their feelings. They may be embarrassed or worried they’ll be seen as weak. They may think they don’t have anyone to talk to, or just don’t know where to start to look for help. Seeing a mate suicidal can be a difficult challenging time.

 

Suicide warning signs

If someone is thinking about hurting himself, chances are he’ll be showing signs in the way he looks, acts or talks. If your mate is really struggling, he might not want or be able to talk to you about how he’s feeling, but these warning signs can give you a clue that something is wrong.

 

Change in his appearance

  • Eating too much or too little, or putting on or losing weight
  • Looking unusually scruffy, or not paying attention to personal hygiene (e.g. not showering)
  • Signs he might have hurt himself on purpose – unusual scars, burn marks or bruises.

 

Change in his behaviour

  • Quitting or losing interest in things he used to like (e.g. sports or hobbies)
  • Emotional outbursts, or crying for no apparent reason
  • Acting dangerously or irresponsibly (e.g. driving recklessly)
  • Unusual aggression or fighting
  • Not going out or withdrawing from mates
  • Getting very drunk or high
  • Giving away his belongings
  • Tiredness or loss of energy
  • Sleeping too much or too little.

 

Change in the way he talks

  • Feeling hopeless about the future – “There’s just no point.”
  • Feeling alone – “No one understands.”
  • Wanting escape – “I need to get out; I can’t deal with this anymore.”
  • Feeling guilty – “It’s all my fault.”
  • Feeling helpless – “It doesn’t matter what I do, bad things just happen to me.”

Sometimes people will make more obvious reference to suicide or self-harm. They might talk about or plan for suicide, write a suicide note, or threaten to kill or hurt themselves. This is not attention-seeking. If someone threatens to hurt or kill themselves, take it seriously. Stay with them if they’re at risk, and get professional help as soon as you can.

 

Taking action

An important part of being a good mate is reaching out when someone is struggling.

If mate is showing a few warning signs and you think something might be up, don’t ignore him. Good mates step up and take action.

If you feel comfortable, talking to your mate is a good place to start. Find time to have a chat somewhere private, preferably when you’re both relaxed and can talk openly without being interrupted. Ask him how things are going. If you are worried, don’t put off talking to him, act quickly.

This can be a pretty hard conversation, so you might find the following tips helpful when seeing a mate suicidal:

  • If you’re not sure how to start, try letting him know what you’ve noticed. “Hey mate, I’ve noticed you haven’t really been yourself lately. You seem down, and you haven’t been at footy training. Is something up?”
  • Stay calm and listen to what he has to say without judging him.
  • Don’t dismiss his problems. Try to be reassuring.
  • Tell him that you care about him and are there to support him.
  • If you think he might be thinking about suicide, don’t be afraid to ask him directly. It won’t put the idea in his head or make him more likely to go through with it – that’s a myth. If he is feeling suicidal, he might be relieved he can talk about it openly. “It sounds like things are really tough for you at the moment. Have you ever thought about suicide?”
  • If he does feel suicidal, he might be worried about what would happen if other people find out. He may ask you to keep it a secret or promise not to tell anyone. Secrets like this can be very dangerous, and it’s really important you do tell someone. You’ll be making sure he gets help and possibly even saving his life.
  • If he tells you he’s suicidal, remember you can call a helpline together (e.g. Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467) to get some immediate support.
  • Ask him to promise that if he has suicidal thoughts, he will reach out and tell someone.
  • Try and encourage him to speak to or see a professional. “Mate, have you ever thought about talking to a counsellor? They’re trained at this kind of stuff – I reckon it could be worth seeing someone. You don’t have to go it alone.”
  • If he doesn’t want to talk, don’t give up. Try another time, or let someone else (his parents, a counsellor, another mate) know you’re worried.

 

Getting the right help

Supporting a mate to get professional help when he’s feeling overwhelmed or suicidal is important. Encourage him to speak to a doctor, counsellor, psychologist or other health professional. Offer to go with him for support if he’s feeling uneasy. His GP is a good place to start, as they’ll know what services are available in his area, and be able to refer him on if it’s appropriate.

Guys might also find telephone counselling helpful. It means they can talk to a trained counsellor at any time of the day or night. Give him a couple of the following numbers (all 24/7) and encourage him to call if he needs to.

 

Looking after yourself

Seeing a mate suicidal, is pretty upsetting and stressful. It’s important you look after yourself.

Make sure you’re still eating and sleeping properly, managing your stress levels and taking time out. Talk to someone you trust – your mates, your family or your partner. If you need some extra help, get in touch with a counsellor or other professional to have a chat about the situation, and how you can cope.

It’s also really important that you remember that no matter what happens, the way your mate’s feeling or behaving isn’t your fault. You’re not responsible for his actions, but you can support him and encourage him to get help.

 

Accessing professional support

Feeling suicidal can be an overwhelming and painful experience, but it is not something you have to bear alone. Asking for help is an important step towards getting the support you need.

In an emergency

If you are in immediate danger, or concerned for your safety in any way:

  • Call 000 and request an ambulance. Stay on the line, speak clearly, and be ready to answer the operator’s questions
  • Attend your local hospital’s emergency department
  • Call your local Public Emergency Mental Health Service.

Each of these emergency services teams are specially trained to support people in crisis, including people feeling suicidal, and are able to keep you safe.

There are a number of services and professionals available to help you through this difficult time. You may wish to speak to someone over the phone, or prefer to seek help face to face. Whichever you choose, it’s important that you are as honest about your situation and the way you’re feeling as possible, so you can get the support you need. Talking to someone about such a painful issue can be difficult, so you may want to check out our How to talk about suicide page for information and tips on how to start a conversation.

 

The Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467 provides immediate support to anyone feeling suicidal. Access online counselling.

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