Helping a Friend Who is Talking About Suicide

As a teen, what do you do if your friend is thinking about suicide?

Posted Oct 10, 2014


Having a friend who is contemplating suicide can be very scary. Your friend may try to swear you to secrecy, but don't make that promise. The best thing that you can do for your friend is to tell a trusted adult. If your friend has told you that he/she is thinking about suicide, consider it a cry for help. Your friend needs to speak with a trained counseling professional. 

Did you know that most people who follow through with suicide don't want to die? They just don't know another way to stop the pain. You can help your friend by reaching out to a trusted adult, a teacher or a school counselor for assistance. School Counselors are trained professionals that will help your friend get the therapeutic help he/she needs. If your friend tells you he/she is thinking about suicide via phone or text, call 911 and let an adult know immediately. If your friend's home alone, keep him/her on the phone and have someone else call 911. Being alone can be very frightening and it allows the mind to wander. That's why it's important to get someone in route to your friend ASAP. Don't wait. 

Sometimes you may suspect that your friend is thinking about suicide, but you aren't sure what to say. Let’s face it: it’s not an easy subject to discuss. Maybe you think if you talk about suicide, it will cause your friend to follow through with it. If so, don't worry; this is a common myth. Talking about suicide does not cause it. Oftentimes people who are having suicidal thoughts want help. Think about it, these are dark and scary thoughts that your friend is carrying around. Sometimes letting them out and talking about them makes him/her feel better. So if you suspect your friend is thinking about suicide, go ahead and ask. Reaching out to your friend will let him/her know that you are there and more importantly, that you care.

Does your friend show any of the signs?

It’s not uncommon for people to have some of these signs at some point in their lives, but people who are thinking about suicide experience them more intensely and more often.

• change in eating and sleeping habits

• withdrawal from friends and family

• pulling away from once enjoyed activities

• explosive episodes

impulsive and risk-taking behaviors

• drug and alcohol use

• poor personal hygiene

• changes in personality

• difficulty concentrating

• decline in academic work

• physical symptoms minus illness (stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.)

A friend who is thinking about suicide may:

• put himself/herself down a lot, or frequently talk about being a bad person

• say things like: "I won’t be around much longer." "Soon everything will be better." "I wish I were dead." "It's no use, why try." "I'd be better off dead." "Life is useless."

• give away favorite things, throw away important personal items, clean up and organize belongings, etc.

• become overly happy after a period of depression

• have strange hallucinations or weird thoughts

If your friend has reached out to you, don't worry about what to say; a hug can go a long way. Your friend has told you for a reason; he/she trusts you. Be an encourager and let your friend know that things will get better. Let your friend know that you care deeply for his/her safety. Help your friend connect with other adults. These people can help find your friend professionals that can help.

While helping your friend is important, so is taking care of yourself. Don't carry the weight of your friend's feelings on your shoulders; they will weigh you down. You are not responsible for your friend's happiness, nor are you responsible for his/her decisions. The best way to help your friend is to find the right balance between being caring while taking care of your own needs.

Resources:

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

http://www.aacap.org/

Healthy Place

http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/psychiatric-disorder-definitions/...

Help Guide

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/teen-depression-signs-help.htm

The Trevor Project

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/