Friday 1st of September, 2023.
Written by General Psychologist, James Blaze.


What is suicide?

The challenges of life can prove be seen as too difficult to manage for some people who can often have thoughts of suicide, otherwise called suicidal ideation. Although they may not actively want to take their life, they might see no better option at the time to escape the distress around the issues they are facing. In Australia, suicide was found to be the leading cause of death in people aged 15-44, with 9 people dying from suicide daily and an estimated 500,000 Australians to have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. There are many reasons that can lead to people reaching a point where they consider ending their life. These include exposure to abuse, development of mental illness (63% of suicides), relationship issues (23.2% of suicides), history of self-harm (22.7% of suicides), family related issues (9.7% of suicides), significant life events or drug and alcohol abuse.

Suicidal ideation: behaviours, words and environment

If you are concerned about someone going through a hard time, pay attention to changes in their behaviour that could indicate to you they may be battling with thoughts of suicide. You might notice they are not contacting family and friends as much anymore, they are losing interest in the things they used to enjoy, there are changes in their eating and sleeping habits, they may seem more hopeless or negative with their outlook, or there may be unexplained injury marks on their body (such as cuts, bruises or burns).

Try to listen for messages or indicators in someone you are worried. You may notice them speaking on themes of coping, burden, and hopelessness. You may hear direct comments such as, “I have had enough”, “It would be better off if I were not around”, “I do not see a way out of this”, “It will never get better”. Suicidal ideation may also sound like passing jokes that lack sensitivity to fatal accidents or death.

Also look out for changes in their environment. Are there any sharp or dangerous objects in their room that you think may not be used for their intended purposes (scissors, box cutters, razors, broken glass, lighters)? Are there signs of drug and alcohol use in their space that is out of the ordinary for them or attempted to be hidden? Are you noticing that important possessions of theirs are no longer around (being sold or given away due to no longer being needed)? These can all may indicators that someone is thinking or planning to end their life.

Helping someone who is suicidal

If you suspect someone is having thoughts to end their life, you can start by finding a suitable time to let them know you are worried about them.

It is important not to avoid having the discussion due to waiting for the right time. It can help not to be afraid of mentioning the word “suicide” and ask directly, “have you been having thoughts of suicide?”. If they tell you they are having suicidal thoughts, listen to what they have to say and try your best to understand (even if you have difficulty relating) their position without making judgements on their situation or offering solutions. If possible, try and connect them with hopes for the future, whether it be short term tasks, life goals or desires to be around for others. Investigate whether they are safe from any potential harm in the moment or near future by gently negotiating the removal of any direct access to drugs, alcohol, medicines, weapons, or any other means that they identify using for the purpose of harming themselves.

You can assist them to get in contact with professional help if they need immediate support (see ‘help is available’). If possible, make sure to let them know you will check up on them every so often. Asking someone the direct question can allow them to share what they would otherwise have kept to themselves. You do not need to have the solutions to resolve their situation. It can be helpful to simply have someone care enough to ask and to know that there is someone looking out for you.

Preparing for future suicidal thoughts

Challenging times might not last forever but they can come back again. When feeling more connected to life in the moment, prompt someone you may be worried about to identify the thoughts, emotions, events, people or reminders that have led to suicidal thoughts in the past, so they can prepare for when they may feel suicidal in the future. Next, help them create a list of things that engaging in may help to relieve suicidal distress in the moment and connects them with hope. This might include contacting people they trust or love, visiting places they find calming, eating foods they enjoy, watching TV shows they find entertaining or doing activities they find soothing in the moment. Drawing upon these outlets in times of distress can help build separation from hopelessness and danger to keep someone who sometimes experiences suicidal thoughts engaged in the management of their mental health. Beyond Blue has a great App that you can use with someone to complete the above plan. (See resources below).

Help is available

If you are faced with a challenging time that you find difficult to endure, consider who is available in your life that you trust speaking with. These people may be family members, friends, teachers or colleagues. Sometimes you may not have people in your life who are available in times where you have thoughts around taking your life. If you are having thoughts to take your life that are building or imminent, know that there are professional supports available to help you.

Lifeline (13 11 14) is Australia’s largest suicide prevention service provider with 3,500 crisis supporters and 10,000 volunteers receiving calls from people having thoughts of suicide every 30 seconds. If you have taken action to suicide or find yourself in a medical emergency as a result of harm to yourself, call 000 for immediate medical support. It can be important to manage your mental health beyond when you are having suicidal thoughts. If you are a child, teenager or young adult you can call Kids Helpline (ages 5-25) 1800 55 1800 or make an account with Headspace (ages 12-25) to manage your mental health long term. Scheduling an appointment with a GP may be the next step in linking you with a mental health professional to treat your mental health long term.

Having thoughts around ending your life can be a confronting experience for you and those around you. It can involve not being connected with supports, safety, hope or a future. Knowing how to support someone else or yourself through these times might bridge this gap and can make the difference between life and death.


Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (2022) Suicide in Australia, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Data & Statistics – Lifeline Australia. Lifeline. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Deaths in Australia, leading causes of death. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Helping others (2022) Black Dog Institute. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Making a safety plan (2022) Suicide Call Back Service. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Online & phone support. headspace. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Phone & Web Counselling: Ages 5-25. Kids Helpline. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Stats & facts (2023) Suicide Prevention Australia. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Suicide facts and information (2022) Black Dog Institute. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Suicide safety planning – beyond now (no date) Suicide safety planning – Beyond Now. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).

Support services (2022) Black Dog Institute. Available at: (Accessed: 10 July 2023).