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How can I help a teen friend who talks about suicide?

Trust in yourself that you can help, and your willingness to do so is the most important thing you can offer your friend right now. But - and this is a big but - you cannot do this alone. A good place to look for information is at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's website www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You'll find information about warning signs, and a phone number to call for support.

This is a secret that should not be kept. Find a trusted adult, and share what you know. A guidance counselor, favorite teacher, school nurse, your parent, their parent - are just a few examples. If this doesn't work out the first time, find another, and another. Keep it up until someone hears you - really hears you. Ask that your school offer training for students, and staff, in how to help friends who are thinking of suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers "More Than Sad" for just that purpose. More information can be found on their website at www.afsp.org.

Make sure your friend knows how much you care about them, how important they are in the lives of others around them. If they are in treatment (counseling or on medication) support them; encourage them to continue. Plan social activities around their schedule, when possible. Last, but not least, take care of yourself - both physically and emotionally. You are, after all, "friends for life," are you not?
Having a friend that is contemplating suicide can be very scary. 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. If your friend has told you that he/she is thinking about suicide, then consider it a cry for help. Your friend needs to speak with a trained professional in the counseling field.

Did you know that most people who follow through with suicide don't want to die? They just don't know another way to stop the pain. You can help your friend by reaching out to a trusted adult, a teacher or a school counselor for assistance. 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 or text, call 911 and let an adult know immediately. If your friend is home alone, keep him/her on the phone and have someone else call 911. Being alone can be very frightening and it allows the mind to wander. That's why it's important to get someone in route to your friend ASAP. Don't wait. 

Sometimes you may suspect that your friend is thinking about suicide, but you may not know how to approach the subject. Let’s face it: it’s not an easy subject to discuss. Maybe you think if you talk about suicide, it will cause your friend to follow through with it. If so, don't worry, this is a common myth. Talking about suicide does not cause it. Oftentimes, people who are having suicidal thoughts want help--our help.

While helping your friend is important, so is taking care of yourself. Don't carry the weight of your friend’s feelings on your shoulders; they will weigh you down. You are not responsible for your friend's happiness, nor are you 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.

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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.