My Friend is Talking About Suicide

Depending on resources and coping skills, your friend may feel so overwhelmed and hopeless that s/he may consider suicide as a means of stopping their pain. Most suicides are preventable. Most suicide victims do not want to die, they just want to stop the pain.

Your friend may feel so pressured by academics, parental expectations, family problems, relationships, legal or substance abuse problems, that may be acute or have accumulated over time until they feel totally overwhelmed. Help your friend get help.

How Do I Know There’s a Problem?

There are a number of potential warning signs and risk factors that are important to know and/or consider when you are concerned about someone's potential for suicide.

Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Talking, writing, singing or drawing about death or suicide
  • Talking about "going away," or "not having to worry about anything anymore
  • Making statements about suicide
  • Hallucinating and hearing voices commanding him or her to do harmful or potentially lethal things
  • Giving away possessions
  • Suddenly appearing calm during a time of high distress
  • Spending lots of time alone
  • Engaging in potentially fatal or risky behaviors - especially if out of character
  • Suddenly quitting job or school
  • Expressing a sense of hopelessness and lack of future - no belief that their pain will end and things will get better
  • Having a sense of meaninglessness - "what's the point; nothing matters anyway?"
  • Romanticizing suicide or idealizing a person who has suicided
  • Recent major loss or disappointment
    Writing a will or making hypothetical funeral arrangements

The following are some beliefs associated with feelings of despair and hopelessness and things that a person at very high risk of suicide may experience.

I can't

  1. stop the pain
  2. think clearly
  3. make decisions
  4. see any way out
  5. sleep, eat, work or do school work
  6. get out of depression
  7. make the sadness go away
  8. see a future without pain
  9. see myself as worthwhile
  10. get someone's attention
  11. seem to get control

Risk factors include

  • Having a specific suicide plan
  • Having easy access to firearms, ropes, pills or other means of suicide
  • Heavy use of drugs or alcohol
  • History of losing a friend or family member to suicide - especially if it is recent
  • Recent discharge from a psychiatric hospital
  • History of self-injury such as cutting, burning etc.
  • Severe anxiety
  • A history of past suicide attempts
  • History of impulsivity
  • Seeming to be disconnected from reality
  • Recent suicides in the news or community
  • History of family violence or sexual abuse
  • Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Physical illness
  • Loss of interest in usual pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach or guilt
  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or indecisiveness

First, if someone talks about killing him or herself or manifests warning signs you should take them seriously - especially if they have a specific plan and the means of suicide. Don't take a chance that the person you think could be "faking it" is really suicidal.

What To Do

Sometimes a friend is not aware that s/he is depressed. This particularly happens when the depression comes on slowly and friends blame themselves for not coping as they normally would, rather than thinking they might have an illness. Suggestions for being a supportive friend include:

  • Ask your friend if he or she is thinking of suicide. 
    An example of what you might say would be: "I've noticed that you aren't leaving your room much lately and been listening to morbid music. Are you thinking about trying to kill yourself?"
  • When in doubt as to the seriousness of the situation, talk with dorm staff or faculty, consult CAPS (Counseling and Psych Services) at Campus Health 621-3334, or The Crisis Response Center (CRC) 520-622-6000.
  • Encourage your friend to tell their parents, dorm staff or other supportive individuals
  • Encourage them to get professional mental health care.
    1. walk them to Campus Health, 3rd floor, to CAPS (Counseling and Psych Services)
    2. assist them to find a therapist off campus. (If the person has
    insurance that covers mental health care, lists of covered providers can be found on-line at their insurance company’s web site or CAPS can be called for a referral.
  • Support them in taking the initiative to get help
  • Remove easily available means of suicide
  • If your friend is unwilling to seek either professional help or tell their parents or a school authority of their suicidal thoughts, then it is important for you to tell someone yourself, immediately
  • Don't wait to see if he or she will feel better soon or someone else will do something.
  • Tell your friend that you care what happens to them and what you have observed that causes you to be concerned.
  • Talking about your worries that your friend is thinking about killing him or herself won't "put the idea in their head" or cause them to become suicidal.
  • Don't try to help them on your own - even if you think it will avoid embarrassment for the person, it is much safer to get professional help
  • Don't challenge your friend with statements like "I doubt you could really do it" or "if you were really suicidal you would have done it long ago" etc.
  • Listen without judgment, don't say things like "killing yourself would be so stupid and selfish."
  • Try to communicate that you care about him or her and help them feel understood, less isolated and alone.
  • Don't try to talk them out of feeling hopeless or depressed, especially with reassurances such as "it isn't as bad as you think"
  • Don't lecture on the value of life, or the "wrongness" of suicide
  • Don't challenge them to do it
  • Avoid promising that you won't tell anyone.
  • If you have already sworn not to tell about your friend's suicidal thoughts or plans - tell anyway. Your friend may feel betrayed at first, but will realize that your telling and getting them help was out of genuine love or concern for them.



Campus Health (CAPS)

Suicide/Crisis Hotlines

If someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or visit the website.

Information on Suicide and Suicide Prevention

American Association of Suicidology

Befrienders International
has information on suicide and crisis support in over 40 countries and 12 languages.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Suicide Prevention Guide

The Bright Side 
a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers that offers help to anyone suffering from a mental disorder or in a crisis situation.

Support for Survivors

The Jed Foundation

National Hopeline Network

Suicide Prevention Action Network

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Violence and Injury Prevention

Survivors of Suicide (SOS)