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Offer the right support 

two men talking over coffee

How you can give help to people who need it

Often, the best advice for someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts is to talk about how they’re feeling. Some people may choose to talk to a friend or a family member, but this approach isn’t always possible.

Some people may not feel comfortable with the lack of anonymity, whereas some people may not have somebody close to turn to. This is why suicide support organisations play such a crucial role in preventing suicide. Suicide prevention organisations like PAPYRUSSamaritans and CALM offer many ways for people to get in touch and talk about how they feel, such as face-to-face conversations, informative content on their websites and confidential helplines.

We spoke to Rachel, an adviser who works at PAPYRUS HopelineUK, to give you a better idea of the role and what kind of person you have to be to provide support.

Who can provide support?

“Our role isn’t one of being the expert, it just depends on your outlook. We offer training to help people learn about how to discuss suicide sensitively as well as reduce the stigma surrounding suicide. In just a few hours you can learn how you can make a difference in your community. This proves that you don’t need to be an expert to provide this type of support. For those interested in a more long-term role, lots of support organisations will also provide training, such as the Applied Suicide Intervention Training Skills (ASIST) program.

In this job it’s all about having the right attitude and a will to help.”


How can we have better conversations

about suicide?

“Talking to people about their suicidal thoughts provides many challenges. No two conversations are the same. To provide the best support you possibly can you will need to understand how suicide can affect someone and be aware of how to talk about this topic sensitively with someone who needs support.”


Be patient

“I would say that the most important trait for providing support is patience. When you’re talking to someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, they may find it difficult to put their feelings into words, or they may start repeating their thoughts and going around in circles, trying to work out why they feel the way they do. The best thing you can do for them is to remain patient with them and let them work their thoughts out.”


Give the person space to breathe

Allow the person to finish their thoughts

Be calm and encouraging

Move at their pace

“Often, people who are having suicidal thoughts just want somebody to talk to and to listen to them. I’ve always found it best to let them to drive the conversation. Giving them the reins allows them to take some control back and open up, empowering them to help themselves.”


Don’t take the lead

Be ‘in the moment'

Give thoughtful responses

Don't be judgmental

“The most important thing that I've learnt about suicidal thoughts is that they can affect anyone and strike at any time. Sometimes it’s a gradual process, sometimes it can flare up because of a traumatic event. It’s unique for every person and therefore very personal. You should approach this topic with care and without judgement.”


Be open-minded and understanding

Bring empathy to the conversation

Why do you do it?

"For me, providing suicide support means that I’m an active force in changing how we talk and think about suicide. Working for PAPYRUS HopelineUK allows me to play a part in removing the stigma and allowing people to be more comfortable and have more productive conversations.

The majority of people who I take calls from don’t actually want to carry out their thoughts and work hard to keep themselves safe. They just want to talk to somebody who wants to listen.”

How can I get involved?

One of the ways that you can get involved is by joining a suicide support helpline like PAPYRUS HopelineUK, a speciality telephone service staffed by trained professionals who give non-judgmental support to those who need it. Their team is trained to ensure that those affected stay safe from suicide and provide practical steps for moving forward.

If this doesn’t suit you, there are many different ways that you can make a positive difference in your community that don't involve suicide support. Organisations like the Citizen's Advice Dudley Borough help provide independent advice on issues ranging from financial difficulties to substance misuse.

Visit the resources below to discover how you can make a positive difference in the community.

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