Caring for someone who may be at risk of suicide
Managing risks and concerns
We know that carers are fundamental to mental health care and we realise that caring might involve looking after someone one who may be at risk of self-harm or be experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Our suicide and self-harm prevention strategy has a key objective of improving the support we provide to carers.
We want to provide more opportunities for carers to come together to share experiences and learn strategies for managing risks and concerns and we are also developing resources to provide information and guidance.
Are you worried about someone?
If you’re worried about someone, try to get them to talk to you. Make caring statements and ask open-ended questions like: “I’ve noticed that you seem a bit down. How have you been feeling?”
Be open about your concerns and if you have reason to believe they might be experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide ask directly. Asking about suicide will not put the idea into someone’s head.
Don’t worry about not having all the answers. Showing someone that you care by asking how they are, listening to what they have to say and taking them seriously is the most helpful thing you can do.
Here are few resources that may help you work things through:
- Samaritans: How to start a difficult conversation
- Rethink: Supporting someone having suicidal thoughts
- MIND: How to support someone who feels suicidal
- CALM: Guide to supporting a mate
What to do in an emergency
If you have imminent concerns that someone may try and take their life, call 999.
If your loved one is under the care of a mental health team, or has been in the last year, and you are concerned about their safety you can call us for advice, whatever time of day or night. Tel 01865 901000 and ask for the team concerned.
Alternatively, contact your GP or 111 out of hours for advice.
Family, friends and carers can also call the Oxford Health Mental Health helpline for mental health advice when their situation is not life threatening. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and supports people of all ages including children and older adults.
Organisations that can help
In a non-emergency situation, Suicide Prevention Charities have helplines for people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts and for those who are worried about someone:
CALM: Campaign Against Living Miserably
This charity works to prevent male suicide. It has a helpline open daily from 5.00pm to midnight.
- Website: www.thecalmzone.net
- Phone: 0800 58 58 58
Papyrus: Prevention of Youth Suicide
This organisation has a ‘Hopeline’ which is open 9.00am – midnight everyday.
- Website: www.papyrus-uk.org
- Phone: 0800 068 41 41
Supporting your child: a guide for parents (pdf)
Shout: For support in crisis
- Website: www.giveusashout.org
- Text: 85258
24/7 text service, free on all major mobile networks, for anyone in crisis anytime, anywhere. It’s a place to go if you’re struggling to cope and you need immediate help
Shining a Light on Suicide
- Website: www.shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk
The aim of the campaign is to prevent suicide and provide information to help those bereaved by suicide or those dealing with suicidal thoughts.
Our approach to safety planning
What is a safety plan?
It is a structured way to help patients plan a range of coping strategies, activities and sources of support they can use at the right time to help them prevent or manage a developing crisis.
A safety plan should be completed collaboratively between the patient and a mental health worker.
The patient should receive a copy of their safety plan and, wherever possible, their family member or carer should receive a copy too. See more information below.
How do we involve a family member or carer in safety planning?
It is our intention to involve a family member or carer in the safety planning exercise for our patients wherever possible. This is so the best response can be agreed if a developing crisis occurs. Additionally, it is important for the family member or carer to receive a copy of the safety plan. However, both of these will rely on the patient giving consent to share information with the family member or carer.
Support for you
Supporting a person who is experiencing suicidal thoughts can be emotionally draining and stressful. It is important to look after yourself and find support. You could:
- Talk to friends and family
- Talk to someone on a helpline – see contacts below
- Talk to your own doctor
- Join a support group for family, friends and carers
- Find out about other support that is available
- Attend a carers workshop to gain a better understanding of mental health conditions and to help you in your caring role
- Continue to do the things you enjoy
- Take time out for yourself – try exercise, going for a walk or mindfulness techniques to help you feel you are getting a break
- Try Talking Therapies if you are experiencing anxiety, low mood or depression
- Buckinghamshire: Healthy Minds
- Oxfordshire: TalkingSpace Plus
- You can learn more about mindfulness on the NHS website.
Other sources of support
- Website: www.carersbucks.org
- Phone: 0300 777 2722
- Website: www.carersoxfordshire.org.uk
- Phone: 0345 050 7666
- Website: www.carers.org
- Phone: 0300 7729 600
- Website: www.carersuk.org
- Phone: 0808 808 7777
Mondays and Tuesdays, 10.00am – 4.00pm
- Website: www.mind.org.uk
- Phone: 0300 123 3393
Side by Side
- Website: www.sidebyside.mind.org.uk
Side by Side is a supportive online community where you can be yourself. We all know what it’s like to struggle sometimes, but now there’s a safe place to listen, share and be heard.
Rethink Mental Illness
- Website: www.rethink.org
- Phone: 0300 5000 927 (national advice)
Oxfordshire Carers Hub phone 01865 904 499 (Mon to Fri, 9am – 5pm)
- Website: www.samaritans.org
- Freephone: 116 123 (24/7 support)
- Website: www.sane.org.uk
- Phone: 07984 967 708
- Email: email@example.com
Saneline is not currently operating due to Covid-19. However, you can leave a message giving your first name and a contact number, and one of their professionals or senior volunteers will call you back as soon as practicable.
You may find it helpful to complete the free Zero Suicide Alliance online suicide prevention training, which provides advice about how to talk to someone who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Launch training now.
Healthtalk.org is a helpful website which offers information about health conditions from patients and carers perspectives. Their self-harm module focuses on parents experiences of self-harm. Here, you can watch and hear individual stories.
MIND have available a leaflet which explains self harm and includes guidance for family and friends. Download the leaflet.
Have you been bereaved by suicide?
If you have been bereaved by suicide you are not alone and there is support available for you. Help is at Hand is a resource for people who have been bereaved by suicide, which was been developed by people themselves bereaved and suicide prevention professionals. You can access the online version via the Support After Suicide website. This website also provides helpful and practical information.
If you live in Oxfordshire Cruse offers a monthly support group for people bereaved by suicide as well as one to one bereavement support.
In Buckinghamshire, MIND provide a suicide bereavement support service.
In Buckinghamshire, Swindon, Wiltshire and Banes there are various Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SoBS) groups. You can find your local group and lots of other helpful information here SoBs provides a helpline from 9.00am – 9.00pm, Monday to Friday. Phone 0300 111 5065.
Healthtalk.org has a module addressing bereavement by suicide in which people talk about their experiences of losing a loved one to suicide.
Page last reviewed: 30 January, 2023