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Teens: Helping a Friend Who's Talking About Suicide

Overview

It may be scary or upsetting to hear a friend talk about wanting to die. But it gives you a chance to help. Talking to your friend about suicide doesn't make it more likely to happen. Talking about it can actually help prevent suicide.

Here are steps for helping a friend you're worried about.

  1. Know the warning signs of suicide.

    Talking about suicide is a sure sign that a person needs help. But some people don't use the word suicide. They may say or write things like, "I'd rather be dead," "I can't take it anymore," or "I wish I'd never been born."

    Other signs that a friend needs help include:

    • Giving away their belongings.
    • Withdrawing from friends and family.
    • Acting aggressive or angry.
    • Using alcohol or drugs.
    • Going through a stressful experience. This might be something like a fight with a close friend or a divorce in their family.

    Not everyone has these signs. They may have others. For example, they may seem hopeless or depressed. Or they may sleep a lot, eat less, or quit caring how they look.

  2. Talk openly with your friend.

    It may not be easy to talk about suicide, but it's important. It shows that you care. And it can help your friend feel supported. Here are some tips:

    • Don't be afraid to be direct. Say something like, "I'm worried. Are you thinking about suicide?" Your friend may be relieved to talk about it.
    • Be a good listener. Try to stay calm and not seem too shocked. Don't judge them or argue with them.
    • Encourage them to talk about why they feel this way. Accept that their feelings are real.
  3. Ask if they have a plan.

    It may be hard to do, but it's important to know. The answers can help you decide what to do next. Ask if they have set a date or chosen a location. Do they have any weapons, pills, or other means of suicide? Have they tried to hurt themselves before? The more detailed their plan is, the greater the danger.

  4. Get help.

    If your friend has a plan to harm themself or someone else, get help right away. Call 911 or take them to an emergency room. If you're not sure what to do, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) for advice.

    But take all talk of suicide seriously. Don't agree to keep it a secret. This may not feel right, but this is too much to handle on your own and their life could be at risk.

    • Urge your friend to talk to a trusted adult. This might be someone like a family member, a teacher, a pastor, or a doctor. Or they could call a crisis hotline like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). They can talk to a trained counselor 24/7, and it's free.
    • If they don't want to call for help, tell them you're going to. Call a trusted adult. Stay with your friend until help arrives.
  5. Keep in touch.

    Call or visit soon, or send a text or an email. Staying in touch shows that you care, and it helps your friend know that they're valued. Feeling connected to others can help protect people from suicide.

Credits

Current as of: June 16, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Andrew Littlefield PhD - Psychology, Behavioral Health
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine

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