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How to Help a Friend Considering Suicide : Warning Signs and Prevention

The number of suicides is growing at a rapid pace. However, it is preventable. It is why it becomes essential to learn about the warning signs, including self-harming behavior, depression, personality changes, and more. If your friend or an acquaintance shows any such behavior or speaks about suicide, then you should pay heed to it and understand its seriousness. Listen without being judged, support them, and encourage them to take professional help ASAP.

How to Help a Friend Considering Suicide | Warning Signs and Prevention

I. Introduction

A. Definition of Suicide

Suicide is the term that defines the act of dying in one’s own hands. It comes in various forms; therefore, our initial work is clarifying the use of this term. In our post today, we refer to suicide in its conventional form, where someone plans out or even acts on their self-destructive feelings and thoughts. It happens when one undergoes an overwhelming feeling of stress.(1)

The following are a few groups of individuals who have greater suicidal tendencies:

  • Veterans
  • Alaska Native or American Indian
  • Young people, especially those who are gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual
  • Rural Dwellers

B. Importance Of Addressing The Issue

Taking one’s own life can affect anyone irrespective of gender, age, or background, and it is often linked with mental health conditions. In reality, suicide is the outcome of mental health conditions often left unaddressed. These thoughts commonly occur, but they should not be neglected as they indicate serious issues.

As noted by the National Alliance on Mental Health, addressing these issues is important. In reality, we can all enjoy the perks of honest conversations regarding mental health conditions that might lead to suicide since a single conversation is enough to change one’s life.(2)

C. Overview Of The Article How To Help A Friend Considering Suicide

You might suddenly find that one of your close buddies is struggling with some issues. If you ask them how they are, they reply absurdly or negatively, indicating their loss of hope or interest in life, thinking about past mistakes, or simply saying that it would have been better if they had just left this world.

They would not mention that they are planning suicide; however, these underlying words should raise the alarm in you.

If anytime your friends indirectly mention suicide, you might feel a bit helpless. However, you can play a huge role in bringing your friend back to their normal life. Your support and compassion can make a world of difference. Suicide is preventable; however, every person has their part to play in saving lives and creating strong and healthy individuals, communities, and friends.

II. Understanding Suicide

A. Statistics on Suicide Rates

Each year around 70300 people commit suicide, and there are way too many people who attempt the same. Each suicide becomes a tragedy affecting families and the entire country, leaving a long-lasting impact on people who stay behind. Suicide occurs throughout the entire lifespan and has become the 4th leading cause of death reported globally in 2019.(3)

Suicide is a global phenomenon happening across every corner of the world and not just in countries with high incomes. In 2019, over 77% of world suicides occurred among low- and middle-income nations.

Accidents rank at number one, and suicides rank second, especially among humans aged 10 to 34, rapidly becoming a global health problem.

In 2020 reports, over 45,000 people have committed suicide across the United States. The CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an estimated 1.4 million adults who have attempted suicide yearly.(4)

B. Warning Signs of Suicide

The following are the common indications where a person might reflect the signs of committing suicide:

  • A Sudden sense of calm: Your friend might become calm suddenly after a prolonged period of moodiness or depression

  • Being moody or sad: The person has numerous mood swings that lurk for a long time.

  • Changes in appearance, sleep pattern, and personality: Your friend’s attitude has changed, like speaking or moving slowly or rapidly. They become less concerned about their physical appearance and sleep more or even less than a normal person.

  • Social withdrawal: The person prefers to stay alone and avoid social activities or friends.

  • Facing a state of despair: The person speaks about feeling hopeless without any reason to live, as they feel like they are a burden on others.

  • Self-harming behaviors: The person would engage in effectively harmful behavior like having unsafe sex, driving recklessly, or increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

  • Speaking about dying: People will often not mention committing suicide if they plan to follow it. But, if they are giving repeated suicidal threats, then it should never get ignored.

  • Making end preparations: The person will start placing their business in a place like visiting friends and family members, making a will, giving away their possessions, or cleaning up their home or room.

  • Experiencing a life crisis or a recent trauma: Instances of crisis would include the death of a pet or loved one, break up, divorce, terminal illness, and serious financial issues.

C. Factors That Increase The Risk of Suicide

There are times when you might not know that your loved one or your friend is planning to attempt suicide, as there are a few common aspects to know of. A couple of the known factors included here are:

  • Had attempted suicide in the past
  • Has serious mental health conditions like mood disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia
  • Undergoing long-term pain or terminal illness or disability
  • Always feels hopeless
  • Has financial or legal issues
  • Has an impulsive or violent behavior
  • Undergoing substance abuse issues like drugs or alcohol
  • Have easier access to self-harm methods like medications or firearms

III. How to Approach the Situation When Your Friend is Considering Suicide?

A. Start the Conversation

If your friend is mentioning suicide, then you might think about avoiding this subject completely and encourage them to look at the brighter sides of life to make them feel better. You might fear or become uncertain about the normal response; however, shying away from this will never help.

Your friend might take this avoidance as a gesture that you are uncomfortable speaking about suicide, as they might get the message that you would not appreciate the depth of their pain, even when this is not the case here. They would stop to confide in you this way.(5)

B. Listen Actively and Non-Judgmentally

We often show our willingness to speak almost about anything with that person that, includes their suicidal thoughts, by giving all ears to the person who is in crisis and listening to what they need to say without being judgemental about it. You can begin by informing the person you are concerned about by giving him or her examples.

C. Show Empathy and Support

You would not want to deny their distress or even ask how they are feeling or why they plan to die. If you try resolving the issues for them, it will never help, as what might appear like a small fix can become impossible for the one in greater crisis.

You should always stay in touch with your friend to remind them that you care for them even when the crisis passes.

D. Avoid Making Assumptions or Giving Advice

Try listening to them and validating how they are feeling. We often incline towards trying and rectifying a situation, mainly regarding the person we care about so much. It is essential to keep in mind that your support is highly important.

IV. Helping Your Friend

A. Encourage Them To Seek Professional Help

You may also help them by advising them to speak with a therapist about persistent or recurrent suicidal thoughts. No matter how strongly you feel, it would benefit them; remember that you cannot make someone go to therapy. Watching someone struggle alone might be very sad, yet directing them may not be effective.

B. Offer To Go With Them To Seek Help

You must always take someone seriously if they have voiced suicidal thoughts, have a plan, the techniques for carrying it out, and have a time frame specified. Take them seriously if you have any doubts. You shouldn’t leave someone with a “significant risk” for suicide alone. Keep in touch with that person, remain with them, or make plans for a third party (someone they trust and feel comfortable with) to join you.

C. Support Them Through Their Treatment

Whenever there is an urgent crisis mode, it is the best time to try out the mental health care system. However, for future crisis prevention, offer help to your loved one by connecting with a professional to find out whether proper medications will effectively help them and learn ways to manage this condition.

Many individuals do not go to their first appointment or follow-up. Make sure you are beside your friend during the treatment process or accompanying them to their appointments.

D. Take Care Of Yourself

It is very important to take care of yourself while you help your friend, as you are constantly dealing with depression and suicidal ideation. Discussing such important topics can work as a trigger; therefore, try to know when you should take a step back and recenter yourself. Supporting your loved one or a friend in such a crucial time is challenging. Consider creating support circles for yourself and following a self-care routine as you deal with such complicated matters.

V. What to Do in an Emergency?

A. What Constitutes A Suicide Emergency

A person who is directly at danger of suicide might need more help than you can provide. If your friend has a plot for suicide, the methods for carrying it out, and a timeline, you should help them by getting quick professional help. If a person is now in imminent risk of suicide, they may display specific behaviors.

B. Steps To Take In A Suicide Emergency

If you see that your friend is in immediate danger of committing suicide, then you should have this plan ready:

  • Never leave the person by themselves. Take help from your friends and even family members
  • Withdraw any weapons your friend might have. Take them away and remove all the sharp objects or others the person might use.(6)
  • If your friend undergoes mental treatment, help them contact the therapist for help
  • Try to keep your friend calm
  • Call emergency numbers or 911 in terms of emergencies.
  • You can even call up the local suicide prevention hotline for additional support.

C. Importance Of Seeking Immediate Help

Therapists may enhance mental well-being and resiliency by teaching people how to comprehend their feelings. According to their experience, they can offer helpful solutions.

A person with suicidal thoughts can identify problematic thought and behavior patterns, give meaning to difficult feelings and acquire coping mechanisms through psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy.(7)

Medication can be used to address underlying sadness and anxiety, reducing a person’s risk of self-harm. Other drugs may be used to treat symptoms, depending on the person’s mental health.

VI. Conclusion

A. Recap of Important Points

  • Suicide happens in a person who is hopeless with their life and plans to end it. It starts with suicidal thoughts due to some serious mental condition.
  • Behavioral or mood changes speaking of hopelessness are a few warning signs an individual might think about suicide. They might start planning to die by distributing their possessions or taking unwanted risks.
  • Suicide is preventable. Support from loved ones and healthcare professionals can keep the person from accessing dangerous objects or accompanying the person at all times.
  • If your friend is undergoing such thoughts, you should take them seriously and get immediate assistance.

B. Emphasizing The Importance Of Seeking Help

When you are experiencing difficulties with your mental health, you must get help. Suicidal ideas, feelings of loneliness, or worry might all fall under this category. Even if you don’t think that reaching out would change anything, it’s still necessary.

Reaching out and being open about your struggles increases your chance of getting the proper direction and help you require. Every person who seeks treatment also contributes to the decline of stigmas related to mental health, and this will make it simpler for future help-seekers to locate the direction they desire.

C. Final Thoughts and Encouragement

No one should undergo this struggle alone. Suicidal thoughts, even if it appears vague, should get addressed immediately. You will not come across a single approach to help a friend who thinks about ending their life; however, you can never go wrong by showing support or companionship.(8)

A doctor can offer a referral to professional suicidal therapy or even a counseling session for your friend who has suicidal thoughts. Never back out from supporting your loved ones or friends when they are receiving the therapy. Speaking to a therapist regarding such thoughts is never easy; however, the best step one can take is to heal.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/index.html
  2. https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Frontline-Professionals/Suicide-Prevention
  3. https://wonder.cdc.gov/Deaths-by-Underlying-Cause.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db398.htm
  5. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/archive/news/2017/life-saving-post-er-suicide-prevention-strategies-are-cost-effective
  6. https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.202000525
  7. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/archive/news/2018/therapy-reduces-risk-in-suicidal-youth
  8. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/archive/news/2016/adding-better-mental-health-care-to-primary-care

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 8, 2023

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