How to Help a Friend Who May Be Feeling Suicidal
If you are concerned that a friend is having thoughts of suicide, but you don’t know if they are making concrete plans, calmly and directly tell them about your concern. Ask them something like, “I’ve noticed that you’re going through a really hard time. I am concerned that you may be considering suicide. Are you having suicidal thoughts or feeling suicidal?”
It may be a difficult conversation to have, but it’s important. It’s also important to understand that research clearly shows that asking someone about suicide does not inspire suicidal thoughts.
If a friend confides in you that they are having thoughts of suicide or planning to attempt suicide, there are some ways you can help.
Be Supportive, Not Judgmental
Shaming or judging your friend’s thoughts or trying to convince them that suicide is bad or immoral may make them feel worse. They may isolate themselves further, which makes it harder to get help. Instead ask open-ended questions such as, “What have you been going through?” or, “How can I support you?”
Take Them Seriously
Don’t try to cheer them up by telling them they have so much going for them or they shouldn’t do it because of how it would affect other people. Instead listen to their feelings and let them know you understand how badly they are hurting. Try something like: “I understand you are really struggling, and I am here to listen.”
Encourage Them to Seek Help
If your friend is having suicidal thoughts, they need to get help from a parent, therapist, doctor, or guidance counselor. If they don’t know who to talk to, encourage them to call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat them for a free and confidential conversation at any time. You can offer to do this with them.
Do Not Promise to Keep It a Secret
If your friend is feeling suicidal, they may feel like they need to keep it a secret or ask you to do so, but that prevents them from getting the help they need. If they tell you, let them know you need to tell a trusted adult for their own safety. Encourage them to tell someone themselves.
Help Them Reach Out for Support
If you’re able to, offer to help them find a therapist or go with them to their first appointment. Offering to be present during a difficult time can be very encouraging.
Encourage Them to Stay Away From Mood-Altering Substances
Recklessly using substances such as alcohol or drugs can be a sign that someone is moving from suicidal thoughts to suicidal behaviors.
Remove Dangerous Items
If you feel safe doing so, take away items such as knives, firearms, and medications not prescribed by a doctor that your friend may use to attempt suicide. You can also ask a trusted adult to do this.