Helping you get through tough times

If your friend threatens to take their own life

If your friend tells you they’re 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.

blue flowerThere 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. 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 know someone who needs help. Let your friend know 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’re feeling, it might help if you acknowledge that they are feeling down and 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 feel 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. Share this 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’re worried about a friend you might feel stressed or overwhelmed and forget to look after yourself. 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.

Remember, even though you can offer support, you’re not responsible for the actions or behaviour of your friend. If they are not willing to help themselves it is not your fault.

This article was last reviewed on 10 May 2017

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