How do I help a friend with suicidal thoughts?
Some background, some drama
Having a friend who is considering suicide is not to be taken lightly. Being suicidal is a temporary state that appears as an answer to severe depression and the act of taking one's own life is preventable when the correct measures are taken. As a friend, you can potentially save a life by paying attention to warning signs of suicide, making your friend feel supported, and knowing when and how to get outside help.
Do’s and Don’ts
If you have reason to believe that someone you know is contemplating suicide, you should help that person get help immediately. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide you to help a friend with suicidal thoughts.
- First spot patterns of suicidal thoughts in your friend.
- Recognize suicidal emotions. Many emotional changes accompany suicidal thought, and are common warning signs.
- Watch for suggestive comments which are common to hear from a suicidal person.
- Be wary of sudden improvement in mood which maybe the peaceful resoluteness of making the decision to end life.
- Notice unusual behaviour and drastic changes to established routines.
- Recognize signs of suicide planning which can mean that a successful attempt could happen soon.
- Talk to your suicidal friend. Speak clearly and openly. Listen emphatically.
- Relay how much you care. Emotional support is a powerful suicide deterrent.
- Check if your friend has the means of any self-harm and suicide.
- Be attentive. If your friend is at high, immediate risk for suicide, do not leave them alone until professional help arrives.
- Call emergency services or a suicide helpline.
- Suggest therapy. Regular sessions with a therapist about suicidal thoughts, feelings, and what triggers them can help prevent suicide attempts in depressed individuals.
- Cultivate an environment of understanding. Tell your friend how much you love them and that you would miss them if they were gone.
- If you feel as though the person is in an emergency state of crisis, seek immediate help for them, even if they ask you not to.
- Don’t stigmatise suicide. Keep an open mind that does not judge the friend’s feelings or decisions.
- Don’t make statements that can hurt.
- Don’t be judgemental.
- Do not be afraid to talk about suicide. Speaking openly about suicide often prompts someone in crisis to think about and reconsider her choices.
- Do not try to “call the person’s bluff." This may seem obvious, but you should not dare or encourage a person to commit suicide.
- Don’t assume your friend is not the “kind of person" who would commit suicide.
- Don't rush them to make decisions or tell you things. Always be delicate in situations as serious as death.
- Don't try to tell them how to feel better or give advice. Just be quiet and really listen.
- Do not try to handle suicide threats on your own, and absolutely do not assume that a friend talking about harming herself is not serious.
Whether your friend told you they were thinking of suicide or you just sense a possibility, you should act; doing so can save a life. It may be a rocky road, but it will be easier if your friend clears her mind from suicide and instead focuses on fulfilling every moment until it really, naturally ends. Nobody deserves any kind of suicide.