Telling others after a suicide

Letting others know isn’t easy. It’s important that family, whānau, and friends close to the person hear the news and details about what is known as soon as possible.

This is best coming from someone who can do this in a sensitive way and, if possible, it should be done in person or by phone, rather than by text or an online message. These suggestions may be helpful.

  • Make a list of who you need to tell and who you should contact first? Add their contact details.
  • Talk with your family or whānau about what you’d like people to know or be kept private.
  • Most people find it helps a lot to be honest about the suicide right from the start. When secrets aren’t kept there’s no ongoing worry about the truth coming out.
  • If you don’t feel able to tell others about the death straight away, ask a trusted member of your family or whānau, or a close friend to do this for you.
  • It can help to start by saying, “I have some very bad news to tell you”. This can get their attention and help prepare them for what you have to say.
  • Think carefully about how you will then break the news. You could say something like ‘I’m sad to tell you that xx has died unexpectedly. It looks like they have taken their own life, but we’re not sure and it’s being investigated.’
  • There will be other people to inform about the person’s death later. Our practical guide After a death: Dealing with practical matters may be helpful. 

Shock can make bad news hard to take in. You might need to repeat what you’ve said. It can be difficult to cope with others’ reactions when you’re coping with your own. People who are in shock can also say or do thoughtless or hurtful things. They are likely to have questions. It might be helpful to have a simple statement ready to say. Don’t answer questions or share information that you don’t want to. Don’t be pushed into saying more than you choose to.

It’s okay to say to people ……

  •     I don’t want to say any more right now.
  •     It’s been a terrible shock and I/we don’t want to say any more right now.
  •     I won’t talk about how they died. It doesn’t feel the right time to talk about it. We are just so sad this has happened.

Be careful if you share information on social media or the internet.

  •  Make sure those close to the person first hear the news in a personal way.

  •  Realise others might spread the news or post things to honour the person. You won’t have control over how they do this.

  •  Some comments can be hurtful. Avoid reading them. They will add unwanted stress.

  •  Any information or photos being shared openly on social media, messaging apps or text messages can be used by the media as public information. They could find it themselves or someone could share it with them.  See more about Managing Media Interest here.

  •  If the person who died had social media accounts, you can find out how to manage these here. You may want these to stay active for people to continue posting on or to close them down. More information here

It can be hard to tell such sad news to a child or young person. Being honest with them early on protects them from hearing the news insensitively later from others. What they can understand and the questions they’ll ask will depend on their age. See After a suicide: Supporting a child or young person for ideas about how to have these important conversations and ways to support them as they grieve – now and in the future.

You can also talk to a Support Worker about this. You can call 24/7 us on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker.

The Mental Health Foundation offers this guide for having safe, open, honest and compassionate kōrero/conversations about suicide with your taiohi/young people. Connecting through Kōrero: Talking about suicide with taiohi/young people


After a death: Dealing with practical matters
After a suicide: Answers to common questions
Managing media interest
After a suicide: Supporting a child or young person