Emergency help – what to do if you are feeling unsafe

Suicidal thoughts can be a feature of depression and sometimes they can become very powerful. Somehow depression twists your thinking and ending your life can seem like a plausible option. If you find that you are starting to think like this, it is really important to get help. Staying safe is the most important thing.

What to do

  • Tell someone. Talk to someone close to you. Tell your GP. Talking about it and getting support really helps.
  • If you have a psychologist, tell them how you are feeling. They will help you to make a safety plan.
  • Sometimes these thoughts attack you at times when nobody else is around (like in the middle of the night). At these times a 24-hour phone/online support service such as Lifeline can be a godsend. You can call and talk about whatever is on your mind, anonymously (if you wish) and without judgement.

What if you know you’re not going to be able to stay safe?

  • Stay around people – it is important not to be left alone. If your loved ones understand that you’re not feeling safe they may be able to help you make sure that you’re not alone. Although it can sometimes feel annoying and that people are ‘babysitting’ you, it is part of what is going to help you to avoid harm.
  • You can go to the emergency department of your local hospital at any time of the day or night. There are trained staff at the hospital who can provide crisis support and treatment.
  • If you’re feeling unsafe, an in-patient stay at a hospital that specialises in mental health can be really useful. Usually a combination of intensive therapy and medical treatment is provided.
  • Your local mental health team usually has a 24-hour ‘crisis’ or ‘acute care’ unit that can provide ongoing support to help you stay safe.

What if a friend or loved one may be feeling suicidal?

  • Talk to them about it – don’t be scared. Some people are afraid that talking about thoughts of suicide might make it more likely to happen. Usually the opposite is true – giving your loved one the opportunity to talk honestly about how they feel is a big relief and is an important step towards change.
  • Don’t be offended. This may sound strange, but it is normal to feel upset or a bit angry when you hear that your loved one has been considering suicide. You may feel that this is a selfish thought on their part, or that it is an implied criticism of your role in their life. While this is an understandable reaction, it isn’t helpful to think this way. Suicidal thoughts are better understood as a potentially dangerous symptom of depression that your loved one can’t control. What they need is help and support to work through this difficult time.
  • Don’t carry the burden alone. Even if you have been told ‘in confidence’, make an exception here. You may need to act as your loved one’s advocate to help communicate the level of risk to their doctor or psychologist. It bears repeating – safety is the most important thing, more important than keeping a confidence.
  • If you are concerned about their imminent safety, call 000. Remember, if someone is planning to kill him or herself they need to be linked into help immediately and not left alone.
  • Help is available – you may need to help your friend or loved one reach out to receive it. It is not your responsibility alone to keep them safe, there are trained professionals (ambulance, mental health and hospital staff) who are ready to help you both.


Sources of help

  • Emergency services – dial 000
  • Hospital emergency department
  • Your General Practitioner
  • beyondblue Support Service 1300 22 4636
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
  • NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511

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