Suicide Prevention

You don’t have to be a mental health professional to help someone who is feeling suicidal; you just need to be able to listen. Asking directly about suicide is the right thing to do if you are worried about someone.

Many people fear talking directly about suicide in case they ‚Äúgive the person the idea‚ÄĚ, but there is no evidence that talking about suicide can be harmful ‚Äď quite the opposite in fact. For many people it can be huge relief to be asked the question in a direct way.

It is a myth that people who talk about suicide are unlikely to go through with the act. Anyone who talks or writes about taking their own life should be taken seriously. Never assume that a person who has spoken about suicidal thoughts before and not acted on those thoughts won’t do so this time.

Suicide can be a stigmatised subject, language is important i.e. ensuring we don't say things like 'commit' suicide.

Health and social care services are responsible for the delivering preventative care for people who are self-harming and suicidal. However, a primary function of the police service is to protect life and the police will often have a role to play in responding to people in crisis and referring vulnerable people to support services. Consequently, they occupy an important role in community-based suicide prevention: by ensuring that persons receive appropriate mental health treatment, by removing access to lethal means from people at high risk of suicide, and by recognizing the suicide potential in situations involving domestic disputes or where potentially deadly force is exercised. 

The police also have a responsibility to support local authorities’ multi-agency work to manage risk of suicide, dealing with threats, attempts and completed acts of suicide. Police forces may be able to support partners in their efforts to prevent suicide by standardising the approach to the recording, managing and sharing of data on suicide.

Very Brief Intervention


Be alert and aware

Not everyone who thinks about suicide will tell someone and there are some people who give no indication at all of their intention. However, there are warning signs that we can all look out for. These include, if a person is:

  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.¬†
  • Actively looking for ways to kill themselves.¬†
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or of having no reason to live.¬†
  • Talking about being a burden to others.¬†
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.¬†
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Suddenly very much ‚Äėrecovered‚Äô after a period of depression.¬†
  • Visiting or calling people unexpectedly to say goodbye either directly or indirectly.¬†
  • Making arrangements; setting their affairs in order.¬†
  • Giving things away, such as prized possession

The best way to help is to ask questions. That way you leave the other person in control. By asking questions, the person you are talking with finds his or her own answers.

Ask how this person is feeling?

  • Often people want to talk, but wait until someone asks how they are. Try asking open questions, like 'What happened about...', 'Tell me about...', 'How do you feel about...'¬†
  • Repeat back what they say to show you understand, and ask more questions.¬†
  • Focus on feelings instead of trying to solve the problem - it can be of more help and shows you care.¬†
  • Respect what they tell you. Sometimes it's easy to want to try and fix a person's problems, or give them advice. Let them make their own decisions.
  • Be aware of verbal or physical cues of anger and/or emotional distress

Ask open questions like - When did you realise?

Where did that happen?

How did that feel?

If someone has been feeling low for some time it is probably a good idea that they get some support, whether it is through talking to someone like a counsellor or getting some practical help.

Useful questions you might ask them include:

Have you talked to anyone else about this?

Is there anything you did that helped you when you had felt this way before?

focus on coping mechanisms and protective factors

Would you like to get some help?

Or, for someone who is reluctant to get help:

Do you have someone you trust you can go to?

Do you have a Suicide Safety Plan?

if someone is serious about taking their life, it may help them to talk this through, it wont put the idea in their head and this does fit in with Safetalk/ASIST approaches.


What you can do to help depends on the situational setting and needs of the individual. Are they at high risk of suicide and requiring  immediate medical attention or is referral to support services required?

The police have various legal obligations to safeguard and protect people in crisis from harm (not criminalising them):

In some circumstances officers have the power to detain people under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act. This is a preserved power for constables which states:

‚ÄúIf a person appears to a constable to be suffering from mental disorder and to be in immediate need of care or control, the constable may, if he thinks it necessary to do so in the interests of that person or for the protection of other persons ‚ÄĒ (a) remove the person to a place of safety within the meaning of section 135, or (b) if the person is already at a place of safety within the meaning of that section, keep the person at that place or remove the person to another place of safety.‚ÄĚ

Prior to using 136 officers should, unless circumstances dedicate otherwise, consult mental health services as to its use.  The detained person will then hopefully via ambulance be conveyed to a place of safety, typically a mental health setting (136 unit) for assessment. Persons of concern may also be taken voluntarily to a decisions unit with use of S136 in particular circumstances but again this be based on the advice of MH colleagues.

Legislation prevents officers from using custody in albeit extreme circumstances, as it is not deemed a suitable environment for those in mental health crisis. If custody is used, escalation processes will be instigated to get that person out of custody as soon as possible following assessment.

Private settings may pose a challenge if somebody is threatening self harm, as police have very limited powers and cant use Section 136, advice should therefore be sought from mental health services. Section 135 of the Mental Health Act allows the police to enter a home and take a person to (or keep them at) a place of safety so that a mental health assessment can be done.  Police must have a warrant from the magistrate's court allowing them to enter a home and an application for a warrant must be made by an approved mental health professional and can be given where there is reasonable cause to believe that they:

  • have a¬†mental disorder, and
  • are being ill-treated or neglected, or
  • are unable to look after themselves.

A person may not be suicidal but you may still be concerned

In this situation you may want to refer or signpost individuals to local services available under this topic, the Mental Wellbeing Topic and Social Isolation and Loneliness Topic as appropriate to encourage them to engage with support services that might help.

You may also recommend they contact their GP, who may be familiar with their medical history and will be able to direct them appropriately which may include a referral to the Primary Care IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies).  IAPT team are skilled in helping people 18 years old and older overcome emotional and mental difficulties like:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Confidence and self-esteem problems

All the local IAPT services are listed under the 'Mental Wellbing' section of LEPH Link and can be found within the 'local support and contact details' section. 


If there is no immediate risk to the individual you may encourage them to contact:

Samaritans - (All age groups)

Offering listening and support to people and communities in times of need and crisis and confidential suicide prevention advice.

No self-referral route, signposting only. No professional referral route, signposting only.

Tel: 116 123, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Papyrus - Suicide Prevention Charity (Young People) 

Confidential support and advice service for under 35s who are experiencing thoughts of suicide or who are concerned about a young person thinking about suicide.

No self-referral route, signposting only. No professional referral route, signposting only.

Tel: 0800 068 41 41 Opening hours
Mon-Fri: 10am-10pm, weekends: 2pm-10pm & bank holidays: 2pm-5pm

Text: 07786209697




SANEline is an out-of-hours telephone helpline offering practical information, crisis care and emotional support to anybody affected by mental health problems.  They also provide a free text-based support service called Textcare.

Tel: 0300 304 7000 - 4.30pm-10.30pm each evening, every day of the year.




Rethink is the largest severe mental illness charity in the UK and their information and advice service  offers practical help on a wide range of mental health issues. 

Tel: 0808 801 0525¬†- 9.30am ‚Äď 4pm from Monday to Friday.



A free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. A text will prompt a conversation with trained volunteers. For individuals who are anxious, stressed, depressed, suicidal or overwhelmed and who need immediate support.

Text 85258  - Available 24 hours a day


'The charity for better mental health' has an extensive range of self help resources available.

Tel: 0300 123 3393 9.00-5.00pm for information.


Andy's Man Club

Provides a weekly talking group, a place for men to talk about issues/problems they have faced or are currently facing. They have clubs in locations all over Yorkshire and the Humber and there is a national online group for those outside of the catchment areas.

For information about how to connect with clubs please email and the team will be able to assist.



Mindwell is a mental health website providing useful information about how to take care of your mental wellbeing and providing a range of self-help techniques. Although some resources are Leeds focussed much of the content has universal application. 


Local Support and Contact Details