Recognizing and Responding to a Friend Who May Be Suicidal

Sep 15, 2016

This week you’ve probably talked to your friends about the Red Sox being ahead in their race to the playoffs and how the Patriots can still win without Tom Brady. But what if a friend needs you to talk about something more? If you are concerned about a friend and notice they are struggling, would you say something? What if he mentions suicide, would you know how to respond? Should you? No two friendships are the same, but the response to concerns about suicide should be.

70% of people tell someone or give warning signs before taking their own life. Knowing the warning signs of suicide and how to respond can save a life. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and people around the world will acknowledge the problem of suicide and the impact we can all have on talking with those closest to us about their mental health, and the importance of treatment.

Below are some tips on talking and listening to someone who is struggling.

  • Listen. Allow them to talk and accept their feelings.
  • Don’t discount their pain with statements like “it’s not that bad.”
  • Speak directly and matter-of-fact about suicide.
  • Show interest and support and make yourself available.
  • Avoid acting shocked that the person feels this way.
  • Let them know there is hope and alternatives.
  • Offer to help them seek support and don’t be sworn to secrecy.
  • Remove means. Try to restrict access to firearms, pills, or other potential methods.
  • GET HELP. You can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

It’s important to remember that talking or asking someone about suicide does not give them the idea. The opposite is true. Bringing up the subject of suicide and talking about it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Visit StopASuicide.org to get more information on suicide, suicide risk, and responding to to someone in a suicidal crisis. Share this important resource with others this month so that they have the knowledge to stop a suicide, too.

If you are interested in learning more about suicide prevention efforts in Massachusetts, visit the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention.