How to help a friend deal with thoughts of suicide

There are some signs you can look for and things you can do to reach out if you think someone in your life may be suicidal.

If you notice a sudden change in the person’s behaviour, that may be an indicator that something isn’t right. Maybe they’re telling jokes about taking their own life, acting withdrawn or making excuses about why they can’t hang out.

You may also notice that the person seems irritated or annoyed, takes unnecessary risks or doesn’t care about anything. They may say things such as:

“No one cares.”
“I can’t take it anymore.”
“The world would be better off without me.”
“It’s not worth it.”
“I don’t care.”
“I’ll be gone soon.”

In some cases, you may notice that the person suddenly seems overly energetic or happy. A person who is considering suicide may become happy when they develop a final plan and believe that their pain will come to an end. It’s important to remember that someone who talks about ending their life doesn’t necessarily want to die, but wants to express that they’re struggling with intense pain. Talking about suicide may be one way the person is reaching out for help.

What can I do?

While you can’t control what happens to the person, you can show that you care by reaching out. Here’s how:

  • Talk to them: tell the person that you care and that you’re worried. Here are some things you can say:
    • “You seem really down lately. Do you want to talk about it?”
    • “I’m worried about you. What’s going on?”
    • “I want to help you. Let’s talk about it.”
  • Ask them: it’s OK to directly ask someone if they are thinking about suicide. It doesn’t make it more likely or “give them the idea.” If you feel safe to ask the question, it may help the person to open up. You can say, “Have you thought about killing yourself?”
  • Get support: speaking to someone about suicide can be difficult, but you don’t have to be alone in the process. Talking to a counsellor, friend, teacher or parent/caregiver can help you work through your feelings. It’s important to take care of yourself, too.

The person may feel embarrassed and not want you to tell anyone. Remember, suicide is very serious and not something that you should keep secret. It’s important for the person to get help. Offer to go with them to speak to a safe adult or give them the number for Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868. Your friend may get mad at you for telling someone, but at least they’ll be safe.

If you think your friend is in immediate danger, call 911. It’s an emergency if you’re worried that the person may do something to hurt themselves. Don’t wait. Call for help and explain the situation to emergency services.

Remember, it’s common to want to help someone who is hurting, but there are limits to how much you can do. Try to be there for the person by encouraging them to get help, but remember that you’re not responsible for the person’s actions. You can’t control what happens, but you can be proud of yourself for being a caring friend.

Need more information or support? You can contact Kids Help Phone 24/7.