If your friend threatens to take their own life

blue flowerIf your friend tells you they are feeling suicidal or that they want to end their life, take it seriously. Hearing this might make you  overwhelmed and worried, especially if your friend is very upset or angry.

There are things you can do to support and help your friend if they threaten to take their own life.

Don’t keep it a secret

Secrets can be dangerous if your friend is going to get hurt or die. It is important to tell someone who can help you and can help keep your friend safe.

This may be a parent, counsellor, teacher, youth worker, doctor or someone else you trust. Another option is to call a helpline such as Samaritans on 116 123.

Encourage your friend to seek help

It’s important your friend seeks help from a counsellor, psychologist, youth worker, teacher or doctor, or a helpline like Samaritans.

Although it might seem hard, these people have training to help your friend get to a point where they are feeling better, and are happier within themselves.

If your friend refuses to see someone

Keep encouraging them to. Try not to let them put you off and keep trying, in as sensitive a way as possible. If you feel able to, you might offer to go with your friend when they speak to someone about how they are feeling. It might also be helpful to forward them some of the information in this suicide and self-harm section.

Offer your support

It can be scary when you realise you need help. Let your friend know that you care, and spend time with them. Just knowing that somebody cares about them can be reassuring as they may feel very alone and as if no one cares.

If they do talk to you about how they are feeling, it might help if you acknowledge that they are feeling down and that things might seem hard, while at the same time trying to remain positive and encouraging.

Choosing when to talk

Timing can be an important part of talking to someone about sensitive stuff. If possible, and if they are not at immediate risk of harming themselves, try to choose a time when you’re both relaxed. If you do feel that they are in immediate risk of an attempt on their life, then calling an ambulance or getting them to A&E or to another safe environment with a trusted, responsible adult who can help your friend, is the right thing to do.

Avoid talking with them during an argument or if they are really upset. If you talk to them during an aggressive or defensive moment you may end up getting a bad reaction and distancing them.

If you’re not sure what to say, you might try saying ‘I’m worried about you’, ‘You mentioned the other day you felt like ending your life, do you still feel that way?’.

Ask them to postpone the decision

While your friend may feel like they have to act now, they can try to postpone that decision. Advise them they may feel different tomorrow or even next week. They can keep a list of other things they can do to distract themselves.

This might include watching a DVD or going to the movies, playing a game, ringing a friend, chatting on Facebook, doing some exercise, reading a book or listening to music. They can then put this into action when the feeling starts to surface.

Many people report that by postponing a decision to die they found that life did change. They got the support they needed and could move on to a better, happier place. This is something you should share with your friend.

Thoughts don’t need to lead to action

Remind your friend that thoughts about taking their life are just thoughts. They do not mean they have to act on them.

No matter how overwhelming they are or how often they have them. They also don’t mean that they will always have those thoughts.

Get informed

It might be helpful to have a general knowledge of suicide and depression. By doing this you may be able to better understand what your friend is going through and what might help.

When you are worried about a friend you might feel stressed or overwhelmed and forget to look after yourself. It is important that you take care of how you are feeling. Speak to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or counsellor.

Having time away from your friend can be important and can allow you to relax. Make sure you spend some time doing what you enjoy. You may want to play sport, hang out with other friends, listen to music, or go for a walk.

It is also important to remember that even though you can offer support, you are not responsible for the actions or behaviour of your friend. If they are not willing to help themselves it is not your fault.

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  1. ReachOut.com says:

    Hi Naomi,

    I'm sorry to hear about what’s going on for you. It sounds like a tricky and quite stressful situation and I can hear you feel confused and scared, and understandably so.

    I'm not sure what age you are Naomi or what age this girl is. If she is under 18 years of age, we would advise you to talk to an adult, like your parents, or her parents if you know them, or a teacher at school and to let them know what’s been going on. It sounds like you are doing your best and you shouldn’t feel guilty or take on sole responsibility for the safety of this girl. There are lots of people out there who are trained and skilled in this area who can help.

    If this girl gets in touch with you again, let her know that you are not skilled or trained to help her but that there are lots of people who can help. Make sure you have the number for a helpline you can give her and let her know she can talk to the helpline or to her psychologist.

    If she continues to contact you, keep letting her know that you are not the right person to speak with and that her psychologist or a helpline can help her more than you can.

    It might be helpful for you to keep a record of what’s happening and to write down times and dates of communications with this girl in a diary or journal. This will help you to keep track of what’s happening and be there as a record for you. If you feel threatened or intimidated at any time by the behaviour of this girl, we would encourage you to speak with the police and to show them your records of what’s been happening.

    Make sure you have someone you can talk to. Whether it’s a trusted family member, friend or teacher at school, try not to bottle this up and don’t take too much on yourself.

    If at any stage you think that this girl may hurt herself, please talk to a trusted adult straight away and with their help, get in touch with a family member of this girl and let them know what’s going on. If you feel there’s an immediate risk that she might hurt herself or if she’s in an emergency situation, you or the adult who is helping you, should call emergency services and let them know what’s going on.

    I think from your IP address that you are based in the US, is that right? We’re based in Ireland but I do know of some helpline numbers you can give to this girl:
    Your Life Your Voice at 1-800-448-3000 - open 24 hours a day for anyone who needs to speak with someone. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Lifeline is a free, confidential, 24 hour hotline for anyone who is going through emotional distress or is in suicidal crisis. Call 911 in an emergency

    ReachOut.com is also available in the US and you can access it via us.reachout.com. They may have more relevant information there to help you and you could chat in the forums as well to see if anyone else has gone through a similar experience.

    It is a tricky situation Naomi, and I'm not sure what’s going on but I hope the information above is helpful. Please remember you are doing your best, that this girl is not your responsibility and keep talking to a trusted adult and friend about how this is making you feel.

    Take care,
    Fenella

  2. Naomi says:

    I have a friend who has an obsession with me, at first I thought it was just a crush but she has been stalking me. She tried to download a tracking app on my phone to find my exact location, texts me as soon as I update something although she does not get notifications for stuff, she texted me everyday because she claimed to be "depressed". I talked to a physcologist and she took a look and said that she probably does not have depression. This girl began to grow angry whenever I talked about anything not about her and she told me how she was always thinking about me and she told my friend that she has sexual fantasies involving me. She follows me everywhere whenever I see her at church. I had to block her on all social media and her texts because I was getting scared. But now she's telling my friend that she feels like hurting herself and that she hates how her physiologist and everyone thinks shes 'crazy'. My friend thinks she might be at risk for suicide or self harm but we're not sure. Today, I tried to ignore her to cut off ties but she looked really sad, but still followed me everywhere. I told her a few days ago that she was making me feel uncomfortable and she got angry and told my fried that i was a 'rejector'. What should we do? Also, should I unblock her on my phone in case anything happens? Her psychologist doesn't seem to be helping and i'm worried something will happen and it will be my fault because I rejected her.... Please help

  3. ReachOut says:

    Hi Kayleigh

    You are obviously very worried about your friend and it's a tough situation to deal with. You have been doing the right thing by trying to get your friend to speak with someone in a support service. I know you say she won't speak to anyone but have you tried offering to go along with her to her GP or another support service? If she really doesn't want to speak with someone face to face then, if she's over 18, she could speak to other people who are going through a tough time and get support through the forums on www.turn2me.org. If she's under 18 then it's worth finding out if there is a Pieta House Centre nearby ( www.pieta.ie ) or a Jigsaw service ( www.jigsaw.ie ). Both of these will accept a self-referral so your friend can just make contact or call in herself without a doctor's referral and both can provide support to your friend.

    It's a very difficult situation for you to be in. It's clear that you want to support your friend and if she is in danger of harming herself it's important that you tell someone else who can help to keep your friend safe until she can get the help and support she needs to get past her thoughts of suicide. You have let her know that you care and by contacting us you've taken further steps towards getting the support she deserves so that she can feel better. There are ways to begin to feel better and if your friend can start taking small steps towards support it will begin to make all the difference.

    Do keep encouraging her to get support yourself but do also get advice from a family member or a support service.

    You've mentioned that she won't call a helpline but maybe she would e-mail Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

    If you let us know where in the country you are we can find out more details about local support services and pass them on to you. Also, if your friend wanted to get in touch with us we could help her to get an appointment to speak with someone.

    If you're worried that your friend is in serious crisis right now you can call the emergency services on 999 or go with her to the A&E department of your nearest hospital. If you are unsure about calling 999 we could call the Gardaí or emergency services for you, if you let us know where your friend is.

    Please do get support to help you keep your friend safe so she can the support she needs to get through this,

    Derek

  4. kayleigh says:

    my best friend self harmed, but she tryed stopping and she did, but now she has told me that she is going to commit suicide, i dont know what to do, she refuses to get help or call a helpline and whenever i try to talk to her about it she wont tell me anything, i let her know that i care, but i dont know what to do, how can i help her?

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