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Counseling Services

Realize your Potential

Supporting a friend who may be contemplating suicide

You may know your friends better than their own parents do. You may be able to tell that something is wrong with one of your friends better than your professors and other college staff can. You can use your insights to help your friends and classmates find help when they are having problems.

There’s no foolproof method of determining that someone is thinking of hurting him- or herself, but the following might indicate that someone could be considering suicide:

1) A suddenly worsening school performance.

2) A fixation with death or violence.

3) A person who doesn’t seem to have any friends or who suddenly rejects their friends, saying things like, “You just don’t understand me anymore!”

4) Extreme mood swings or a sudden change in personality.

5) Indications they may be in an abusive relationship.

6) Signs of a possible eating disorder.

7) Difficulty adjusting to gender identity.

8) Depression.

Warning signs that someone is probably thinking of committing suicide in the immediate future

1) Announcing a plan to kill him- or herself.

2) Talking or writing about suicide.

3) Saying things like:

  • "I wish I were dead.”
  • "I’m going to end it all."
  • "You will be better off without me."
  • "What’s the point of living?”
  • "Soon you won’t have to worry about me.”
  • "Who cares if I’m dead, anyway.”

4) Staying away from hanging out with friends.

5) Expressing belief that life is meaningless.

6) Giving away prized possessions.

7) Neglecting appearance or hygiene.

8) Obtaining a weapon or prescription medications.

As a friend, what can you do?

Take any expressed intention of suicide very seriously.

1) Talk to your friend and express your concern. Listen in a manner that shows appreciation of the person’s difficulties. This does not mean entering into the despair, rather maintain an attitude of careful optimism. Depressed people are very often wrapped up in their own concerns. Keep advice simple and practical, remembering that it may have to be repeated!  Avoid saying, “You have so much to live for,” or “Think about how that will hurt your family.” Instead, you might say, “Things must really be awful for you to be feeling this way.”  Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. Encourage your friend to talk to you about what he or she is feeling. Let the person know that he or she can be helped and that you will support them in finding help. Do what you can to help them find help! You can not become their counselor, you are their friend!  Remember: Talking about suicide or suicidal thoughts will not push someone to kill themselves! Your friends will often share secrets and feelings with you that they probably will not share with older adults or their parents. However, you may need to be persistent before they are willing to talk.

2) Never promise to keep someone’s intention to kill themselves a secret! Help is out there! It is a sign of caring to bring your friend to treatment that may alleviate his or her suffering and save your friend's life.

3) Be especially concerned if your friend tells you that he or she has made a detailed suicide plan or obtained a means of hurting themselves. If your friend announces a plan to commit suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Call for assistance immediately! Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you can, talk to an older adult whom you trust will intervene. If you are on the CSM Campus when this occurs, call 911, then contact Public Safety.

If your friend posts on Facebook or another social networking site that he/she intends to commit suicide, call for assistance immediately! Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Then, if you can, contact someone whom you trust, e.g. an immediate family member. If you are on the CSM campus, call 911, then contact Public Safety. If need be, contact the counselor at CSM Counseling Services, 301-934-7577.

4) If your friend or classmate refuses to get help and/or refuses to further discuss the issue with you—or, you don’t know the person well enough to initiate a personal conversation, find an older adult whom you trust who can intervene. This older adult could be a member of your friend’s family, your own family, or a member of the clergy. If you are on the CSM campus, contact CSM Counseling Services at 301-934-7577. If you are unable to get a hold of the CSM counselor, speak to one of your college professors or another college staff member. If this older adult doesn’t take you seriously, immediately find someone else who will! Remember: You can help as their friend, you are not their counselor!

5) Remember: Change can be slow. Putting out energy and getting no response can be frustrating! Too high a level of frustration can lead to anger and a sudden decision to withdraw. Take care of yourself and seek out another person whom you trust can give you the support you need.

What if you’re the one who is thinking of hurting yourself? Tell someone who can help!

Talk to someone in your immediate family. If you can’t talk to your immediate family, find someone else: a relative, friend, a clergyperson, someone at your campus, or the counselor at CSM Counseling Services, 301-934-7577. Call 911 if your need is immediate or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.