If you think your friend is experiencing depression, considering suicide, or behaving in a way that makes you worried about them, it’s important that you take this seriously.
If you see any of the suicide danger signals below, act immediately. Encourage your friend to reach out to an adult for help, and if you think they are in immediate danger, call 911. At school, contact your guidance counselor, nurse, principal, or health teacher.
Suicide Danger Signals:
- Worsening depression – unrelenting low mood, hopelessness, withdrawal, anxiety and inner tension, pessimism, sleep problems or desperation
- Preoccupation with death
- Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
- Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
- Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
- Suddenly happier, calmer
- Unexpected rage or anger
- Making a plan
- Giving away prized possessions
- Unusual visiting or calling friends/ loved ones
- Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
- Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
- Preparing to leave family & friends behind
If you recognize these signs in yourself or in a friend, act now. Encourage your friend to reach out to a professional right away by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or texting 741741. If your friend is in immediate danger, call 911.
How to Help
When you know your friend is struggling or going through a tough time, it’s normal to want to help them—but there’s a few important things to remember:
- It’s important to be supportive of your friends, but supporting someone with a mental illness requires a network of friends, adults, and professionals to be successful.
- No matter what your friend says, keeping their secret about depression or suicide is never the right thing to do.
When helping your friend, here’s a list of some do’s and don’ts to follow that can show you how to be supportive and helpful:
- Reach out
- Show that you care
- Encourage your friend to talk
- Stay calm
- Listen with concern and without passing judgment
- Ask the suicide question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
- Assess the danger. Does your friend have a suicide plan? Does your friend have access to the means to take his/her life? Has he/she attempted suicide before?
- Offer hope that he/she will not always feel this way
- Tell an adult and get help from a mental health professional
- Offer to go with your friend to get help
- Keep your friend’s suicide plan a secret
- Make your friend’s problem sound unimportant
- Act shocked
- Try to take any weapon away from your friend
- Leave your friend alone when he/she is in crisis
- Assume that your friend is simply having a bad day
- Take on the responsibility of your friend’s safety by yourself
- Stop being a good friend, no matter what
- Lose patience if your friend rejects your help
- Give up hope
Interested in learning about mental health, depression, coping skills, treatment options, and more? Check out our resources for students!