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When a friend is struggling with thoughts of suicide, it can be hard to know how to support them. It’s important to recognize the signs of potential suicide and to provide your friend with the care and understanding that can make all the difference in a difficult time. Here, five steps to help a friend who is struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Identifying Signs of Potential Suicide
The first step in helping someone who is thinking about suicide is to recognize the signs. Look for changes in your friend’s behavior or attitude, such as a loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, frequent talks of hopelessness, or a sudden decrease in self-care habits. Anxiety, depression, or withdrawal from social events can also be clear signs of distress or suicidal thoughts. Be sure to pay attention to any changes and take them seriously.
Offering Emotional Support and Connection
It’s important to make sure your friend knows they are not alone. Show genuine care and understanding by listening to them and validating their feelings. If possible, try to create a safe space where they feel comfortable talking about their thoughts openly. If your friend is facing a particularly tough situation, provide emotional support by validating their feelings and asking them how you can support them.
Understanding the Need for Professional Help
If your friend is experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, it is important to understand that professional help is likely necessary. Offer to make an appointment with a mental health professional and offer to go with them if they feel anxious. Additionally, look into mental health resources in your area that could provide additional support for your friend.
Listening Without Judgement
It is essential to remember to listen without judgement when talking to your friend. Offer your unconditional support by showing that you accept them and their feelings. It’s not your job to “fix” the situation, but to simply provide a listening ear. Remind your friend that their thoughts and feelings are valid, and they are not alone in their struggles.
Creating a Safety Plan for Your Friend
If your friend is in imminent danger of self-harm, help create an action plan for them to stay safe. Suggest removing any items from the home that could be used for self-harm, such as guns or medication. Additionally, suggest ways that your friend can take care of themselves in moments of distress, such as calling a crisis hotline or speaking to a mental health professional.
When a friend is struggling with thoughts of suicide, it can be overwhelming to know how to support them. However, it’s important to recognize the signs of potential suicide and provide emotional support to your friend. Additionally, it is important to understand the need for professional help and to remind your friend that their thoughts and feelings are valid. Finally, create a safety plan together to ensure your friend stays safe in moments of distress. With these five steps, you can provide your friend with the care and understanding they need in a difficult time.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Workbook for Depression: A Step-by-Step Program, by Dr. William J. Knaus, ED.D.
- The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs, by Stephen Ilardi, Ph.D.
- The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, & Jon Kabat-Zinn