Letting others know

It may be hard to handle reactions when you tell others about the death. Think about:

  • making a list of who you most need to tell
  • asking someone you trust to help you let others know
  • being very clear about what details you want told
  • finding a short phrase you can use to say what has happened.

Also, think about how you want to tell people about the death. Be careful when sharing information on Facebook or social media. Family, whānau, friends, and others who were close to the person may be hurt or disappointed if they find out this way.

It is important to be aware that after suicide, other people can be at a greater risk of suicide themselves. If you are worried about someone, read more about how to help them.

Telling children and young people

Every child or young person will react differently to news of a suicide. Their age and their emotions will influence what they can take in and understand at this point. You may need to repeat key information later. Telling children and young people early on prevents them from hearing about it inappropriately from others.

To help children and young people come to terms with suicide, make sure you:

  • explain key facts simply and honestly
  • check they understand. Suicide might be a new word for them
  • let them talk about what has happened. It helps them to make sense of it
  • reassure them that no single thing will have caused the person to die, but a mixture of things
  • explain why some questions cannot be answered with certainty. The directness of their questions may be unsettling. They might also ask questions later on, even months or years later
  • avoid describing specific details about the method of death. This can be very distressing, and can increase the risk of suicidal behaviour if the young person is having their own thoughts of suicide
  • let them know they are loved, cared for and safe.

This can be a time when others, particularly young people or children, can feel overwhelmed by their loss and may have their own thoughts of suicide. It is very important to reassure them that they can talk with you or others to help them process the emotions they are feeling.

If you are concerned about any extreme reactions or if you think the young person may be thinking about suicide themselves, talk to your local doctor, medical centre, hauora, community mental health team, school counsellor or counselling service. Read more about how to help someone you are worried about.

Responding when others hear the news

People may want to express their shock, sadness and support through phone calls, letters, texts, emails, messages on Facebook and other social media sites, visits or coming to stay. This contact can be supportive, but also overwhelming.

Insensitive comments can also be hurtful. Friends or family may say unkind things without thinking, as they try to manage their own grief.

During this time, it is important to remember:

  • only share information you want to. Don’t be pushed into telling more.
  • you can choose who to see or who to speak to. You can always respond to others later on, when you feel more able to. Others can take messages for you.
  • if you need time out, make space for yourself. You could use an answer phone, put a sign on your door or let people know you are taking a break from social media.
  • sudden shock and grief can impact on decision making. You could talk with someone you trust before making any important decisions. It is okay to tell people you need some time to think before giving an answer.
  • if people offer to help, think about what would help you most. It might lighten your load if someone else helped to cook, clean, babysit, take phone calls or contact people for you.