Supporting those who have witnessed a suicide

You may be reading this because someone you know has witnessed a suicide-related incident. That person may be finding it difficult to talk about what has happened, or you may be worried about some of their reactions. 

We hope that the information on the very wide range of physical and emotional responses people can experience has helped you to understand a little more about what they are going through.

What can I do to help?

Be there for the person, even if they do not want to talk

Just spending time with someone or being at the end of the phone to message or chat, can let them know that they are not facing their feelings alone.

Listen when they are ready to talk

We know that it is not easy to talk about suicide. It is also not easy to listen to details that you might find distressing. Finding a balance between being open to listen and protecting yourself is important. There is more advice on talking to someone about suicide in Finding the Words, a resource from the Support after Suicide Partnership.

Don’t judge how they’re reacting

There is no one way to react to trauma – and sometimes responses can be extreme or worrying. Give the person time to process what has happened and if you are still concerned about their reactions, encourage them to seek help from a GP.

Offer practical help

It is important for a person recovering from a traumatic event to eat well, sleep regularly, get fresh air and stick to a routine. Anything you can do to help them to do this will bring them closer to recovery. They may also need some company if there are legal requirements of them to give a statement or attend an inquest.

“In the days afterwards, it was more productive for me to be at work than at home. I also needed to be around people. But I was still doing strange things like sleeping in my lunch break. I would go into an empty meeting room or walk to the park and just sleep for an hour.