How to Have Safe Conversations About Suicide: A Guide to Compassionate Communication

September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about suicide and its prevention. Throughout September we are focussing our weekly articles around suicide prevention to help raise awareness. This week learn how to approach the sensitive topic of suicide with empathy and care. This comprehensive guide provides essential tips for having safe and supportive conversations about suicide. 

Conversations about suicide can be incredibly challenging and emotionally charged, but they are also essential. In a world where mental health struggles are more prevalent than ever, it's crucial to know how to have safe and compassionate discussions about suicide. These conversations can make a world of difference for someone in crisis.

By approaching the topic with empathy and care, you can help individuals who are struggling find hope and support. This blog will provide you with valuable tips and guidance on how to have safe conversations about suicide.

Tips for Safe Conversations About Suicide

Educate Yourself

Before engaging in a conversation about suicide, educating yourself about the subject is essential. Understand the risk factors, warning signs, myths and available resources. This knowledge will help you approach the conversation with confidence and accuracy. You can find valuable information on reputable websites and mental health organisations.

Choose the Right Time and Place

Selecting an appropriate time and place for the conversation is crucial. Ensure that you have privacy and won't be interrupted. Avoid having these discussions in public spaces or during heated arguments, as it can make the situation more stressful.

Start with Empathy

Approach the conversation with empathy and non-judgment. Express your concern and let the person know that you care about their well-being. Use empathetic statements like, "I'm here for you" or "I'm worried about how you're feeling."

Listen Actively

Listening is one of the most powerful tools for safe conversations about suicide. Encourage the person to talk about their thoughts and feelings. Avoid interrupting or offering immediate solutions. Instead, provide a compassionate, non-judgmental ear. Reflect their emotions and thoughts back to them, showing that you understand and care.

Ask Direct Questions

While it may feel uncomfortable, it's crucial to ask direct questions about suicide if you suspect someone is at risk. Questions like, "Are you thinking about suicide?" or “Are you considering ending your life”. And- if thoughts of Suicide are shared, "Do you have a plan?" can open up the conversation and allow the person to share their feelings. Be prepared for their answers and stay calm.

Avoid Making Judgments

Refrain from passing judgment or expressing shock, anger, or disbelief during the conversation. These reactions can discourage the person from opening up further. Remember that their thoughts and emotions are valid, even if you don't fully understand them.

Be Patient

Conversations about suicide may take time, and the person might not be ready to share everything in one go. Be patient and allow them to share at their own pace. Your ongoing support and presence are vital.

Offer Hope and Support

Let the person know there is hope, and they don't have to go through this alone. Encourage them to seek professional help, such as therapy or counselling, and offer to assist them in finding resources. Reiterate your commitment to supporting them throughout their journey to recovery.

Safety is The Top Priority

Sharing thoughts of Suicide requires great courage and vulnerability. Often a person sharing thoughts of Suicide will want this to remain confidential. Because the top priority is their safety, and because there is a risk of escalation, you should not promise to keep a disclosure of Suicide thoughts or behaviour to yourself. 

In some cases thoughts of suicide are abstract and there is no intent to act on them right now - in which case you should aim to agree a plan with the person about who else can be involved, to help keep them safe from thoughts of suicide, and support them in accessing professional support. If they disclose thoughts of suicide, you must ask if they have a plan- if they do, it's essential to seek help from a mental health professional or a crisis hotline immediately. 

Stay Connected

After the initial conversation, continue to stay connected with the person. Follow up regularly to check on their well-being and offer ongoing support. Feeling isolated can exacerbate thoughts of suicide, so your presence and care can make a significant difference.


Having safe conversations about suicide requires empathy, patience, and understanding. By following these tips and approaching the topic with compassion, you can create a safe space for individuals struggling with thoughts of suicide to open up and seek help.

Remember that your support can be a lifeline for someone in crisis, and together, we can work towards reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues and suicide.

Ultimately, the power of conversation lies in its ability to foster connection and healing. By learning how to have safe conversations about suicide, you become an essential part of a supportive network that can help save lives.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or considering suicide, please seek immediate help from a mental health professional or contact a crisis hotline. You are not alone, and help is available.

Summer Offer: We are so pleased to announce that we will be running our public/open Suicide First Aid Training courses during October. To mark World Suicide Prevention Day, we are offering a 20% discount on our Suicide First Aid Training courses when you book your place before 30th September.

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