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How to talk safely about suicide on the forums

Having thoughts about suicide is something a lot of people experience at some point in their life. It’s a painful place to be, and in that moment of pain, it can be hard to know what to do. 

It’s really important to talk about these thoughts when we have them, and to get the right help. The right help means getting help in the right place, and at the right time.


Talking safely about suicide online is important because:

  1. Talking about suicide is brave, important, and a way for people to get support
  2. talking about suicide online can be upsetting for others and needs special consideration in order to keep everyone safe 

 This means that we need to know how to talk about suicide to encourage point 1, and avoid point 2. 


So how do we talk about suicide?

If you come to the forums with thoughts of suicide, or strong feelings of hopelessness, take a minute before you type up a post to consider:

  • What do I need right now? (Do I need to talk to someone? Do I need to feel heard? Do I need to find a way to stay safe?)
  • Where is the best place for me to get what I need? Is the forum the best place or is there a more suitable service eg: a crisis service?
  • If the forum is the best place, how could posting on the forum impact other people who read or engage with the post?
  • How can I communicate this information safely? Do I need to change parts of my language, or add something that tells people I am safe?

 If you reflect on the above questions, and choose to share your thoughts of suicide on the forum, make sure your posts follows these guidelines:

  • Use safe language to describe suicidal thoughts, making sure not to include any details such as method, or means
  • Use a Trigger Warning in the title of your post by putting TW in the subject line 
  • Make sure that in your post, you confirm that you are safe from these thoughts and able to stay out of serious harm.
  • Include in your post the steps or strategies you are using to reduce distress, or that you are accessing crisis/non- ReachOut supports. - make sure you take these steps. 
  • If you are unsure what steps to take to reduce distress or stay safe, ask the forum for ideas, and be open to these ideas. 

Why is talking online about suicide such a big deal?

Talking on a forum, is very different to talking to someone IRL, or in a private space for a few key reasons:

  • We are not moderated 24/7 and can’t give you support immediately.
  • We are a peer support service that relies on other young people to offer their insights, experience and wisdom. If you are in a crisis, you need support from an appropriate service trained in supporting people in crisis.
  • Anything posted online is easily misinterpreted or misunderstood. It can be hard to clarify what someone means.
  • Talking in person allows for communication through body language, and ongoing ‘real-time’ conversation. It's often easier to understand  what someone means, when you talk to them face to face, or even over the phone.
  • We have thousands of people reading the forums every day that could be impacted by reading posts about suicide - it could cause them distress or leaving them worried.

We may remove or edit posts if the post:

  • Makes us or others worried that you will act on suicidal thoughts
  • Expresses suicidal thoughts without confirming safety, steps to reduce distress, or access to crisis/non- ReachOut supports.
  • Is unclear or vague about safety, if there is no response from member within an hour of initial post, OR if response does not confirm safety.
  • May be harmful to the community

It is always up to staff discretion whether a post is harmful to the community and needs to edited or removed. We may also need to introduce time restrictions or pauses on your access to the forums, if we feel it will help you to build up your support network outside of ReachOut. We will always email you about his process.

We know this stuff is hard, so we are here to support and help you!


What next?


Re: How to talk safely about suicide on the forums

Wozah @gina-RO this is such a good explanation and clarification of this section of the guidelines. Lately I've been a little confuddled (definitely didn't make up that word Smiley Wink ) about this area and what I can say and what not but this is fantastic!!
IDK why but this just made me happy bahaha im weird Smiley Happy
Thanks again for putting so much effort into this

Re: How to talk safely about suicide on the forums

@gina-RO 👍👌
**NEVER be afraid to ask for help because you're WORTH it!**

Re: How to talk safely about suicide on the forums

@annabethxchase I'm so so glad this has helped. Heart

I know this is such a tough area and there is often confusion about what is ok to post what what isn't. Hopefully this post helps people to feel more confident when sharing their suicide thoughts - is there anything you think needs further clarification or discussion? 


The two main things we want to emphasise is that 

- talking about suicide is brave and important. 

- talking about suicide online can be upsetting for others and needs special consideration in order to keep everyone safe


@scared01 Heart




Re: How to talk safely about suicide on the forums

Yeah it's pretty tough @gina-RO to make sure that everyone is acknowledged and is safe Smiley Happy You guys have a difficult job! I reckon you've covered it all really well Smiley Happy .

Re: How to talk safely about suicide on the forums

Thanks @annabethxchase


I just want to add into this thread, that if you ever read something that does trigger you on the forum, head over to this post to read what you can do about it.