If you know someone who has thought about committing suicide, you realize how hard it is to know what to say or do about it. Are they just joking? Do they just want attention? Or is something serious going on? The truth is, most suicidal individuals give definite warnings of their suicidal intentions, but people around them are either unaware of the significance of those warnings or don’t know how to respond to them.
Most suicidal individuals give definite warnings of their suicidal intentions.
Kendra said she has thought about killing herself many times: “If I don't have anyone to talk to once in a while, to get my feelings out, I get really sad, because I feel like no one cares about me. I think about what would people think if I was dead, or would they be happier without me?”
I’d hate to think Kendra, or someone like her, would kill herself because she feels no one ever showed her they cared. Perhaps you have a friend like Kendra who has said some things to you that sounded like she or he might be deeply depressed, or even suicidal. It’s very important to recognize those signs.
Here are some of the signs to watch for. A suicidal person may:
- Talk about suicide, death, and/or having no reason to live
- Withdraw from friends or social activities
- Experience drastic changes in behavior
- Lose interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
- Give away prized possessions
- Lose interest in their personal appearance
- Express a deep sense of hopelessness
- Increase in drug or alcohol use
- A deep sense of serenity, or being at peace
- Complain about being a bad person or feeling rotten inside
They even may be so desperate they might say something like...
- If I killed myself, then people would be sorry
- If I wasn’t around no one would miss me
- All of my problems will end soon
- I won’t be a problem for you much longer
- Nothing matters; it’s no use
- I won’t see you again
So what can you do to help someone who is threatening suicide?
- Get involved. Be available. Show interest and support
- Don’t be afraid to talk with them about suicide. Talking about it does not make it worse, but better. Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide
- Ask if he/she is thinking about suicide
- Ask if they have a plan. If so, take them seriously and move quickly to get help. Remove anything that would help them carry out their plan – guns, drugs, alcohol, knives, etc.
- Don’t bait the suicidal. Don’t say, “I think you’re just bluffing. I don’t believe you.”
- Be willing to listen. Be non-judgmental. Don’t lecture
- Don’t ask “why.” This encourages defensiveness
- Don’t act shocked
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Get support
- Offer hope that alternatives are available
Nicole said her sister saved her when she felt suicidal: “Because of her, I am still here. If you know anyone who you may think have depression or suicidal thoughts ask him or her if everything is okay and comfort them.”
Make sure you take any threat of suicide seriously.
Reassure your friend that you love them. That’s what happened when Heather was feeling suicidal: “I told [my friend] what was going on and he just kept telling me that he cared—that it wasn’t the right thing for me, that I had so much more to do with my life. But the thing that helped me was that he said he loved me. I had felt so alone and no one had told me that in awhile not even my mom.” Remind your friend that no matter how awful his/her problems seem, they can be worked out, and you are willing to help.
Get involved. Be available. Show
Please make sure you take any threat of suicide seriously. Of all the people who have committed suicide, 80% have given some kind of warning. A person who you feel is “high risk” for suicide should never be left alone, if even for a moment. Keep talking to that person, and stay with him or her. Don’t feel like you have to handle this on your own. Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
You could very well be that voice of hope to someone you love.
Most times a suicidal person needs someone close to them to be a voice of hope. Amberly agrees: “Sometimes all you need is to be loved and know someone is there to catch you when you are about to fall.” You could very well be that voice of hope to someone you love. Your efforts might just save someone’s life. But in the end, you can only do your best. If your friend should commit suicide, it is never your fault. Each person is responsible for their own actions. Remember, 20% of all suicides cannot be prevented, no matter what. So don’t drown in a sea of guilt if someone you know kills themself.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact my HopeLine at
Next week, I’m going to end this series on suicide by writing about what to do if you feel suicidal. What can you do to help save your own life? I look forward to reading your comments.
1-800-394-4673 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.