Having a friend who has shared suicidal thoughts can be overwhelming and terrifying. You may feel an immense amount of pressure to do or say the right thing to help. Take a deep breath and know you are not supposed to be able to carry this on your own. Here are some steps you can take if you think your friend is suicidal.
Know the Warning Signs
It is important to first be aware of the warning signs for suicide. Some immediate warning signs include:
- Talking about suicide or death.
- Talking about feeling hopeless and having no reason to live.
- Looking online for ideas about how to kill oneself or buying items to use.
- Withdrawing from life, loved one, and activities.
- Engaging in self-destructive behavior (drinking excessively, drug use, driving too fast, etc.).
- Giving away possessions.
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
If you have a friend who is showing any of these warning signs, talk to them about it. Do not wait for them to start feeling better. Be direct by saying something like, “I have noticed you talking a lot about wanting to die. Are you having thoughts about killing yourself?”. Many people fear that when they ask a question like that, they could plant the idea of suicide in their friend’s head. Research shows this to be false, and that asking these questions can actually save a life.
Voice Your Concern
Let your friend know that you care about them, that you understand, and that there is help available. Avoid trying to cheer them up or telling them that their situation could be worse. Try to remain calm and listen attentively to your friend.
Share with a Trusted Adult
You may want to try and help your friend on your own, but it is always safer to get help. If your friend asks you to keep their thoughts about suicide a secret, let them know that you care about them too much not tell an adult. They may tell you that you are the only one who understands or is able to help, but that is not the truth. There are mental health professionals that have specific training in how to give your friend the support they need, and the best thing you can do for your friend is to step back and let an adult step in.
Share your concerns with an adult as soon as possible. This could be a parent, teacher, or school counselor. You can also call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for 24/7 help. If you are concerned your friend is in immediate danger, call 911. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Know You are Not Betraying Your Friend
You may feel like you have betrayed your friend by reaching out to an adult for help. It makes sense that you are worried about their reaction, and of course, you do not want to damage your relationship with them. Remind yourself that their safety and wellbeing is more important right now than them being upset with you and that you are doing what is best for them and your relationship in the future!
Take Care of Yourself
Dealing with a friend who is suicidal is incredibly stressful. Make sure that you take care of yourself and take your own time to process what is going on. Turn your attention to activities that make you happy or are relaxing, such as yoga, coloring, running, listening to music, reading, etc. If you are finding that you are having trouble managing your own anxiety, feelings of sadness, or are withdrawing from activities you usually enjoy, it is worth seeking help from a parent, mentor, or therapist.
Written by: Emily Meyer
Connect with Emily Here