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What to do in an emergency

Finding out that someone has just made a suicide attempt or is about to harm himself/herself is a daunting situation to be in. Below are some guidelines to help support you in an immediate crisis.

  • Don’t leave the person alone, or if they’ve phoned you, stay on the phone and find out exactly where they are and whether anyone else is there.
  • If the person has already harmed himself/herself: Call 000. If you are using a mobile phone, 112 is an alternative emergency number that will connect you to Emergency Services.
  • If you are with the person, ask for an ambulance. Give the ambulance consultant as much information about the situation as possible and follow their advice.
  • If the person has taken a lot of medication, consumed alcohol in combination with medication or ingested a poison, you might also contact Poisons Information 131 126.
  • If the person has phoned you and is alone, you might be able to use another phone to call 000 whilst remaining in contact with them on this line.
  • The first step is to ask the operator for the police.
  • Ask the police for a welfare check on behalf of the person you are concerned about. Give the police as much information about the situation as possible and follow their advice.
  • If the person has not yet harmed himself/herself: As is the case in a First Aid situation, it is vital not to put yourself in any danger whilst offering support to the person.If you are with the person and they are behaving aggressively towards you or have a weapon, call 000 and ask for asssistance from the police.

DO NOT attempt to wrestle a weapon away from someone as you may put yourself at risk.

  • If it is safe to do so, remove any firearms, knives, medications and other poisons, ropes or hoses from the person’s reach.
  • If you’re on the phone, encourage them to remove these items from their sight themselves.

Try to make a safety contract with the person. A safety contract is a verbal agreement given by the person that they won’t try to harm themselves for a certain period of time. Make sure this plan is achievable and realistic.

Encourage and support the person to go to a place where they’ll remain safe from harm, such as:

  • the emergency department of the local hospital
  • their local crisis centre or mental health centre
  • home (if they feel safe there and someone is able to stay with them)

If the person won’t agree to keep safe, use the phone to call either:

  • The local Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CATT, see Emergency contact information), or
  • The police for a welfare check if the person if alone, or if the person has a weapon or is in a dangerous situation - 000 (or 112 from a mobile phone)

Do your best to support the person experiencing a suicidal crisis. However, it is important to remember that, in spite of our best efforts, some people will still complete suicide.