Suicide What do I say? What do I do?

The rates of suicide in Australia are quite confronting:

  • Each day there are 6 suicides and of these 5 are males!
  • The highest risk group are men 80 or older!
  • The next highest risk group are men 30 to 49 years old!
  • The lowest risk group are men 15 to 19years old! This group is half the rates of the middle years group and one third the rate of the highest risk group.
  • For every person who dies by suicide at least 6 additional people are profoundly impacted for the rest of their lives.

Information from

For those of us involved in Community Men’s Sheds this means that there is a reasonable chance that we will be impacted by suicide in some way at some time BUT few of us feel equipped to be able to deal with the situation or to be able to support someone who is highly impacted.

Below are some tips provided for use by the Australian Men’s Shed Association by the National StandBy Response Service, one of Australia’s leading suicide postvention programs dedicated to assisting people and communities affected by suicide. StandBy was established in 2002 by United Synergies Ltd and currently operates in 17 communities across Australia with the support of the Australian government.

For further information about StandBy
Or go to

What do I say? What do I do?

How to understand and support someone bereaved by suicide

This letter was written to a Canadian newspaper in 1993.

After a recent suicide in our family I would like to let your readers know what helps a survivor of this  tragedy.

  • Call immediately after the tragedy, but do not drop by unannounced.
  • Telephone first; some may not want visitors.
  • Do not ask for details or jump to any conclusions.
  • If your initial call seems unwelcome, be forgiving and call later.
  • What is important to the survivors is that you acknowledge the situation and let it be known that you care.
  • Tell the survivors what the person meant to you.
  • Recalling a good (and happy) story will be appreciated.
  • Don’t tell the survivor how the tragedy could have been prevented as it makes the survivor feel at fault.
  • Do not place the blame on anyone.
  • Let the survivor talk and be an attentive listener.
  • Tell the survivor you are sorry that this has happened, that life is sometimes very unfair – but never say, “It’s probably all for the best.”

The family members of a suicide victim will not be comforted by these words.

  • If you can’t make a personal call, send a note.
  • If you aren’t sure what to say, “thinking of you” will convey your message adequately.

What do I say? What do I do?

How to understand and support someone bereaved by suicide

Listen to the story – over and over again. Or, alternatively sit with them in their pain – sometimes this may be a time of silence.

Listen without judging –Those who are bereaved will have intense feelings that are likely to include anger, sadness, fear and guilt. You cannot change this or take their pain away but you can help them by being there, caring and listening.

Be prepared – for any and all reactions. Be particularly aware of the needs of children.

Remember –that there are some very important things that people want to know. Offer to find out about resources and information they may assist them in their grieving. Support them in accessing specialist care if they need more help or have no ‘good’ days.

Keep in touch – on a regular basis. Don’t abandon those mourning this loss. There may be times when your offers of help are refused. Try again later. If you feel awkward because you don’t know what to do or say, be honest – “I don’t know what to say…is there anything I can do?”

Offer to do something practical -L such as making a meal, paying bills or doing the shopping or washing.

Send a note – If you don’t know what to say, you can just write ‘thinking of you’.

Share good memories – of the person who died and what they meant to you.

Give people bereaved by suicide time – to begin their healing process. Don’t expect that they will be ‘over it’ in a few weeks or months. It can take months or years to find a way to live with the loss. Try to remember birthdays and other special days. Be aware that these may be particularly difficult times.

Be kind to yourself – It can be draining to share another’s loss. You may also be affected by this loss and have your own grief to deal with. Take time to do some special things for yourself.

  • Don’t keep asking for details of the suicide.
  • Don’t blame or give reasons for the suicide.
  • Don’t avoid talking about the deceased person. It may seem that you are denying they ever existed which can be very hurtful to those left behind.
  • Don’t use clichés that make judgements or assumptions about the deceased person – such as “They’ve gone to a better place” or” It was the best thing for them”.
  • Don’t use clichés when talking to the bereaved person such as “You must be strong” and “Life goes on”.

For support after suicide call Mensline 1300 789 978
The Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Or Lifeline 131114