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Helping a Friend at Risk of Suicide

helping a friend

​​Suicidal thoughts are scary and difficult to talk about.  If you have a friend who is struggling, you might not know ​what to do or how to handle it.  You are doing the right thing if you are willing to do something and don't ignore what your friend is feeling.  Here are some suggestions for what to do:

  1. Ask  If you are worried that your friend might be suicidal, talk to them about it.  Ask them if they are thinking about suicide.  Be direct and use the word "suicide."  Studies show that asking the question will not put the thought in their head, but will allow them to be more open about their feelings.  It also helps you know how serious the situation might be.
  2. Listen  Once you ask the question, give your friend time to answer.  Don't rush them.  This may be nerve wracking, but don't fall into the temptation of nervous talking.  Allowing your friend the time to respond gives them time to process their thoughts, and shows that you care about what they have to say
  3. Be There  Let your friend know that you are glad that they shared their thoughts and that you want to help.  They may ask you to not tell anyone.  If this happens, let them know that you care enough to make sure they get the help they need.
  4. Find a Supportive Adult  Adults are better able to coordinate getting the help for your friend than you could do on your own.  Think of someone that you trust and your friend will be comfortable talking to.  This might be be your parents, their parents, a teacher, school counselor, coach, or maybe a youth leader at your church.
  5. Be Direct  When you talk to the adult, be honest that your friend is having suicidal thoughts and needs help to stay safe.  If you aren't clear, they might not understand the seriousness of the problem.
  6. Be Discreet  Although you should involve an adult right away to get your friend help, do not involve your whole circle of friends.  Keep it private between you, your friend and the adult who is helping you.  Talk to your own parent if you need support, but this is definitely not something that you should talk to other people about.
  7. Keep In Contact With Your Friend  Just because your friend is dealing with some heavy issues and getting some professional help, doesn't mean that you can't be friends.  They are still the same person, and can still be your friend.  Right now, they are focusing on getting help so they can feel better.
  8. Know Your Limits  Even though you want to be a supportive friend, you also have to look out for yourself.  You aren't a professional counselor so don't get bogged down with their problems.  Be open and honest with your friend if things become too much for you to handle.  

It is understandable that a situation like this can be stressful and make you feel anxious.  During this whole process know that you can check in to see if you are doing the right thing, or if you just need a little extra support.


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