How do I support someone who feels like suicide is their only remaining option?


Thoughts of suicide grab hold of people with the desire for relief; relief from painful feelings, circumstances, trauma, and social conditions. As hard as it is to understand, suicide seems to present a potential solution.

For many professionals, friends, and family members, this confronting reality creates an uncomfortable tension between them and the person they support. Suicide and suicidal thinking are difficult to understand and it can be painful to learn that someone you care about could consider suicide as an option. 

So there’s a potential for a disconnect between people struggling, who see suicide as their only option for relief, and those who wish to offer support, who want to remove suicide as an option.   

How do we offer hope and bridge the divide?

By collaborating around the common goal of feeling better. You can shift your focus from trying to remove the option of suicide, to trying to add options for feeling better.

In other words: Find common ground on the goal of relief.

How you word your response will differ based on who you are, who the person is, and will be tailored to the situation. Here are two examples of starting points: 

“When you're feeling as bad as you're feeling, it's understandable you'd look for a way, any way, to find relief. I'm not experiencing all this pain you're going through which can make it harder to see other options, but I have some ideas that could help bring relief other than suicide. If you'd like, I could share those with you.”

“You don’t want to feel this way anymore. Suicide comes in and offers an option. I just question whether it’s your best option–maybe some part of you wonders the same?”   

Note: This is one of the More than Safety Newsletters that are shared weekly. SafeSide members in our Community of Practice have access to the full library of newsletters and resources. 

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Acknowledgement of Lived Experience
We acknowledge the lived experience of those with suicide and mental illness, their families and carers. Their preferences, wishes, needs, and aspirations are at the heart of all the work we do.

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