Know the Signs

You know more about what’s going on in your friends’ lives than anyone else. This puts you in the best position to know if one of your friends needs help. Below is a list of warning signs to look for:

  • Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
  • Severe out-of-control, risk taking behaviors
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits
  • Extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still
  • Intense worries or fears
  • Trying to harm or kill themselves or making plans to do so
  • Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight
  • Repeated use of alcohol or drugs

Share Your Concerns

If you notice any of the above warning signs or if you’re concerned one of your friends is thinking about suicide, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it.

Start the conversation

  • Before you star the conversation, have a list of resources your friend can use to get help on hand.
  • Open the conversation by sharing SPECIFIC signs you’ve observed
    • “I’ve noticed lately that you [haven’t been sleeping, aren’t interested in soccer anymore, which you used to love, are posting a lot of sad song lyrics online, etc.]…

If you are worried your friend is thinking about suicide, ask the direct question

  • “Are you thinking about suicide?”
  • “Do you have a plan? Do you know how you would do it?”
  • “When was the last time you thought about suicide?”

If your friend answers “Yes” to any of these questions or if you think they might be at risk of suicide, you NEED to talk to an adult you trust IMMEDIATELY, or call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 911.

Listen, express concern, reassure

Focus on being understanding, caring, and nonjudgmental

  • “You are not alone. I’m here for you.”
  • “I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
  • “I’m concerned about you and I want you to know there is help available to get you through this.”
  • “You are important to me; we will get through this together.”

What NOT to say

  • Don’t promise secrecy
    • Say instead: “I care about you too much to keep this kind of secret. You need help and I’m here to help you get it.”
  • “We all go through tough times like these. You’ll be fine.”
  • “It’s all in your head. Just snap out of it.”
  • Don’t ask in a way that indicates you want “No” for an answer
    • “You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?”
    • “You haven’t been throwing up to lose weight, have you?”

More information

For more information on how to talk to a friend about suicide, visit www.suicideispreventable.org