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Manitoba Suicide Line Help Someone at Risk of Suicide

People sometimes take their own lives when feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and pain overtake their feelings of hope.  Talking directly, sensitively and respectfully about suicide helps to re-establish connections, and invites people to engage with us and feel less alone.

Before talking to someone about suicide you to can call the Manitoba Suicide Line (MSL) at 1-877-435- 7170 to discuss your concerns and how to approach the person. Under certain circumstances MSL counsellors can do call-outs to someone who might be at risk of suicide.

Talking about suicide will not plant the idea in someone’s head, nor will it cause someone to kill themselves.

What you should say to someone at risk of suicide

Suicide prevention starts with knowing the Warning Signs. The next step is  knowing what to say and do. Asking about suicide will not increase a person’s risk of acting on their feelings. When we talk about suicide we begin the process of removing the shame, secrecy and isolation.  The result is that the people feel heard, less alone and often relieved and more hopeful.

Broaching the topic of suicide can be challenging. While it is important that you use words that fit for you, here are some ideas to consider:

I know you’ve been going through a difficult time. I’ve been concerned about you. When people go through difficult times, feel sad, alone and hopeless they can sometimes think about suicide.  Have you had thoughts of suicide?

Lately you don’t seem yourself. You seem sad and withdrawn, possibly even depressed. I’m concerned about you, and I’ve been wondering if you have had any thoughts of suicide.

Before having this conversation it is important to be aware of what resources you can refer people to. It is also important to be aware of what your own personal limits are. Be clear about what you can and can not do, and do not make promises you cannot keep. For example:

I’m glad you told me what you have been feeling and thinking. I want to make sure that you get the support you need to get past this and feel better. I’m here for you, but I also think it’s important that you talk to someone who has experience and training in this area. Perhaps you might start with taking with someone from….(list supports such as mental heath worker, guidance counsellor, clergy, Crisis Services, Manitoba Suicide Line etc.)

Suicide support checklist

  • Take all threats seriously
  • Be direct
  • Be non judgmental and empathic
  • Be a good listener
  • Do not minimize the person’s feelings
  • Be aware of your own feelings and reactions. Stay calm and remember to pay attention to your own breathing.  When we are calm and take deep, slow breaths those around us do the same. (www.de-stress.ca)
  • Do not be sworn to secrecy
  • Seek out support from appropriate community resources and professionals
  • Ask if there is anything you can do
  • Draw on resources in the person’s support network
  • Do not use clichés or try to debate
  • If the risk is imminent call 9-1-1 or take the person to a hospital emergency room
  • Call the MSL at 1-877-435-7170 in your area, to discuss your concerns and how to approach the person