What to do if you think a friend needs help
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. More people die from suicide than from war and murder combined, and many of the people who commit suicide do so because they think they don’t have another option, or because they think no one else will care. But there are always other options, and there is always someone, many someones, who care. Take five minutes today to get involved and become informed. Here’s how:
What should I be looking for?
The National Council for Suicide Prevention urges you to take immediate action when you see someone (or if you yourself are) exhibiting the signs for suicide. You might promise a friend never to tell a parent or teacher about her problems, but if the choice is between keeping your promise and saving her life, saving her life should always be your top priority.
Signs to look for include hopelessness, recklessness, uncontrolled anger, withdrawing from friends and activities, anxiety, dramatic mood changes, feeling like there’s no way out and increased alcohol or drug use. If a friend is threatening to hurt or kill herself, or begins looking for ways to hurt or kill herself, call 911 or ask for immediate assistance from a mental health provider, or someone like a guidance counselor or school nurse. If a friend who normally doesn’t write or talk about death, dying or suicide begins doing so, ask for help from a professional.
How can I help?
Aiding a friend, family member or even an acquaintance who is severely depressed or potentially suicidal is difficult and requires you to be patient. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen and show that you care. Be available to talk, and talk openly. Ask hard questions, like if they are contemplating suicide. Be aware of how they’re doing on a day-to-day basis so you can tell when circumstances are getting better and if they become worse.
Don’t judge; instead, let them talk openly about their feelings. Don’t feel like you need to give advice or try to solve their problems. And don’t think you can’t talk to someone about your experience as you try to help a friend. It’s important that you stick with your friend as long as you can, but these issues and emotions are hard to deal with. Talking to someone else confidentially can help you come to terms with how you’re feeling about your friend.
What can I do right now?
If you or a friend needs help right now, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The call is absolutely free and will not appear on your phone bill, and the line is staffed 24/7/365 by trained counselors at crisis centers near you. These counselors can also refer you to local mental health professionals. Here’s how the call works: When you dial the number, you’ll hear a recording telling you that you’ve reached the Lifeline. You’ll hear music while your call is routed to a crisis center near you and then, a trained counselor will get on the line to talk with you for as long as you need.
To spread awareness and show your support, put a candle in your window tonight and light it at 8 p.m. You’ll be joining thousands of people who are uniting to prevent suicide. For more details and to show your support on social media, visit facebook.com/take5tosavelives.
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