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As a teen, what should I do if a friend with a mood disorder is suicidal?

Having a friend who is suicidal can be very scary, especially if you know that your friend struggles with a mood disorder. Your friend may try to swear you to secrecy, but don't make that promise. The best thing that you can do for your friend is to tell a trusted adult. Your friend needs professional help. If your friend has told you that he/she is thinking about suicide, then consider it a cry for help. 

In reality, most people who follow through with suicide don't want to die; they just want to stop hurting. As a teen, you can reach out to your parents, teacher or school counselor for help. School counselors are trained professionals who will help your friend get the therapeutic help he/she needs. If your friend tells you he/she is thinking about suicide via phone conversation or text, let your parents know immediately and call his/her parents and let them know. If no one is home with your friend, keep him/her on the phone and have someone call 911.

If your friend has reached out to you, you don't have to worry about saying the right thing. In fact, there are no magic words. Your mere presence, caring and compassion will shine through. Let your friend know that things will get better and you care deeply for his/her safety.  But the most important thing that you can do is take care of yourself. You are not responsible for your friend's happiness, nor are your responsible for your friend's decisions. The best way to help your friend is to find the right balance between being a caring friend and taking care of your own needs. 
Research shows that those who discuss their suicidal thoughts (or outline a plan) eventually make an attempt. Further, young adults can be impulsive. Where a suicidal adult may take six months thinking it over, a teen may act impulsively and if he or she has the means, one rash decision and extreme mood could end a life.

If you're concerned about your friend, you can gently ask if he or she has had suicidal thoughts recently. Simply asking will not prompt your friend to make an attempt. Your question will not put the idea in your friend's mind either. If your friend is suicidal, the family and a counselor need to know.

Impress upon your friend that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The problem can be resolved. And don't tolerate listening to your friend's black outlook on life. Suicidal people have a chemical imbalance. They do not perceive life realistically no matter how certain they are that they can see things even more clearly than you!

Your friend can feel better. Ask them to trust your judgment. Impress upon them that their brains are not giving them correct messages right now and that they can feel better.

Finally, remove all weapons, drugs, alcohol or other things with which they can injure themselves. Most of all, encourage your friend to call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. The highly trained suicide counselors there know exactly what to say. They've heard about every situation and discussed options with a wide range of personalities. They can give your friend action steps to take so that she or he can get help and treatment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.