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Supporting someone who may be struggling this Christmas

This page has tips to help you support others who may be struggling during this festive period.

Christmas can be a hard time of year for many people. Financial strains and pressures, loneliness and home hardships can all have an impact. Christmas can see new problems arise or even worsen existing issues.

This page has tips to help you support others who may be struggling during this festive period.

Things not to do when someone is struggling:

  • Don't take it personally if someone doesn't want to join in on what you perceive to be festive cheer. This can be a party, a game, Christmas dinner, etc. It may feel disappointing, but it doesn't mean that they don't care about you.

  • Please don't make assumptions about why Christmas may be a difficult time for them. It may be hard, but try not to ask intrusive questions about their past or experiences. The reason many people find this time of year difficult can often be deeply personal. Reassure them that you are there if they ever need to talk, but also be ok with the fact that they may never want to share this with you. You may want to know more, but you can support them without having every detail. You can support them by referring them to outside help such as Talk To Tom.

  • Try not to cheer someone up with quips such as: "Cheer up Grinch; it's Christmas." Or: "You could enjoy yourself if you tried." Your intentions may be coming from a good place, but statements like this are not usually constructive. Also avoid saying things like "there are people who have it far worse than you," or "everyone else is having fun but you."

Helpful things to do when someone is struggling at Christmas:

  • Understand that Christmas can mean many different things for many people. While it may conjure up happy memories and emotions for you, for others, it may be the complete opposite.

  • Let them know that you understand that this time of year can be difficult for them and that you are there for them if they ever want to talk.

  • Let them know that they aren't alone and that many people find things hard during the Christmas period. The expectation to feel happy may feel like a huge burden to them, leaving people to feel even more isolated when they feel everyone else is happy.

  • Listen to what they say and respect their feelings.

  • Ask if there are things you can do to help. Maybe you can start, stop, or continue doing certain things that they may find helpful. If they can't think of something right away tell them that's ok, to think on it and come back to you.

  • Ask them if there are particular things about Christmas that are difficult, and ask what they think might help. For example, it could be helping them plan how to exit difficult situations, avoid certain activities or people, or deal with difficult conversations.

  • REMEMBER they aren't trying to spoil Christmas for you or others around them. No one chooses to find things difficult or to feel low.

  • Look after yourself. Supporting someone else can be difficult. For example, you might feel sad or conflicted. It's ok to confide in someone about how this is affecting you. Your wellbeing matters too.

Help someone who’s feeling suicidal or who you believe may be suicidal: It can come as a massive shock when a loved one, friend or even a stranger tells you that they are feeling suicidal. It may have left you feeling confused about what to do or how to help them - but please rest assured there are services and resources available and we will help guide you through them. Firstly - it is of the utmost importance that you take the person seriously. It is a myth that people who talk about suicide are only looking for attention. If an individual has built up the courage to speak with you about ending their own life, they are serious about it. Be patient, kind and reassuring and help to usher them through what is one of the lowest points of their life. There are many services available that you can help refer them to including us. Let us help you here at Talk To Tom we can be your guide - contact us on (0818) 303061 or via Whats App. To launch a chat now click here. At Talk To Tom, we like to refer to the QPR method of suicide intervention and prevention. QPR is a US-based principle by the QPR Institute brought to Ireland for the first time by Talk To Tom. It stands for Question, Persuade and Respond. It can be applied for use with someone you know is facing a suicidal crisis or for someone you suspect might be thinking of ending their life. The First Step: QUESTION: Tips for asking the suicide question:

  • If in doubt, don’t wait, ask the question.

  • If the person is reluctant, be persistent.

  • Talk to the person alone in a private setting.

  • Allow the person to talk freely.

  • Give yourself plenty of time.

  • Have your resources handy; phone numbers, counsellor’s name and any other information that might help.

The Less Direct Approach: Ask questions such as ...

  • “Have you been unhappy lately?”

  • “Have you been very unhappy lately?”

  • “Have you been so very unhappy lately that you’ve been thinking about ending your life?”

  • “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?”

Direct Approach: Ask questions such as ...

  • “You know, when people are as upset as you seem to be, they sometimes wish they were dead. I’m wondering if you’re feeling that way, too?”

  • “You look pretty down; I wonder if you’re thinking about suicide?”

  • “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

How NOT to ask the suicide question:

  • “You’re not thinking of killing yourself, are you?”

  • “You wouldn’t do anything stupid, would you?”

  • “Suicide is a dumb idea. Surely you’re not thinking about suicide?”

Step 2 - PERSUADE - How to Persuade a person to stay alive:

  • Listen to the problem and give them your full attention.

  • Remember, suicide is not the problem; only the solution to a perceived insolvable problem.

  • Do not rush to judgment.

  • Offer hope in any form, reassure them, be kind.

Then Ask:

  • “Will you go with me to get help?”

  • “Will you let me help you get help?”

  • “Will you promise me not to kill yourself until we’ve found some help?”

Step Three - Refer - How To Refer Someone To Get The Help They Need

  • Suicidal people often believe they cannot be helped, so you may have to do more.

  • You can ask their permission to call us here at Talk To Tom and make an appointment. We will see them as soon as possible – and you can even bring them to our Clinical centre on St Michaels Rd, Gorey. Our service is totally free. We also offer support and advice to friends and family.

  • The best referral involves taking the person directly to someone who can help.

  • The next best referral is getting a commitment from them to accept help, then making the arrangements to get that help.

  • The third best referral is to give referral information and try to get a good faith commitment not to attempt suicide. Any willingness to accept help at some time, even if in the future, is a good outcome.

For Effective QPR Intervention Remember:

  • Say: “I want you to live,” or “I’m on your side...we’ll get through this.”

  • Get Others Involved. Ask the person who else might help. Family? Friends? Brothers? Sisters? Pastors? Priest? Imam? Rabbi? Bishop? Physician?

  • Follow up with a visit, a phone call or a card, and in whatever way feels comfortable to you, let the person know you care about what happens to them. Caring may save a life.

Please remember: If you feel the person is an immediate danger to themselves, please contact the emergency services on 999 or Caredoc 1850 334 999. If a person has contacted you via phone, or text and informed you that they intend to end their life and you can no longer reach them - you must reach out to the emergency services. It is important to remember your own well-being at this time too. Hearing news that a friend or loved one has been experiencing suicidal ideations is scary. If you need to talk to someone following the event - you can contact us individually also.


If you need further support, remember to let us help you here at #talktotom. We can be your guide - contact us on (0818) 303061or via Whats App.  To launch a chat now click here.  You can find out more about our counselling service here.


Other services you where you can reach someone to talk to:

Samaritans offer a 24-hour listening service over text message, text 'Hello' to 087 260 9090 to get started (standard text messaging rates apply) or call 116 123 to talk to someone over the phone.

Childline text and instant messaging services are available from 10 am - 4 am every day to young people under 18, text 'Talk' to 50101 to talk to a trained counsellor by text message or call 1800 66 66 66.

For free 24/7 support in a crisis, free-text HELLO to 50808. If your life is at imminent risk, call 999 for emergency help. If you are a customer of 48, An Post or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ shortcode, please text HELLO to 0861800280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support shortcodes like ‘50808’.


Visit Your GP:

We always recommend that you visit your GP with whatever health issues you are facing.  Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed.  Your doctor is a professional health care provider and will be familiar with how you are feeling.  Your mental health is just that - your health.  You would visit your GP if you had been feeling physically unwell, right?  Your emotional health is just as important as your physical well-being - in fact, the two go hand in hand.  If you don’t have a current GP, you can find a list of services in your area here.  You can also contact the CareDoc service on 1850 334 999


Contact Emergency Services:

If you are an immediate danger to yourself and are going through a suicidal crisis, please contact the emergency services by dialling 999 or visit your nearest Emergency Department.



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