As a friend, you always want to help those close to you. Sometimes, that means simple things, like giving them a ride to work, or just talking on the phone after a long day. In other cases, it can mean heavier things, like being them for them during a crisis. If you have a friend who has mentioned having thoughts of suicide, you have already come face to face with this kind of crisis situation. Your response and the support you lend in these situations is important, but it can be hard to know how to proceed.
Start by Listening
One of the best things you can do for a friend who has had suicidal thoughts and has discussed those thoughts with you is just to listen. They are likely confiding in you because they think of you as a good friend and someone they can trust. You may not understand why they feel the way they do, but you can start to see things from their perspective just by listening. People can arrive at this point in their lives for a variety of reasons, so don’t assume you know what is wrong before taking time to listen to what they have to say. In fact, simply having someone available to listen may be exactly what they need in this moment.
No Room for Judgment
It’s important to stay open-minded and understanding throughout any conversations you have with your friend. This is not a time to judge them for what they are thinking, or to criticize how they are handling situations in their life. It may be that feeling isolated and alone is part of the underlying problem, so you could make it worse by projecting your judgement onto them in this moment. Rather than judging, simply be open to the conversation and understanding of their issues.
You Don’t Have All the Answers
As you listen to your friend speak, resist the temptation to provide what you think will be solutions to their problems. Someone who is contemplating suicide has likely been dealing with these feelings for some time and does not see an easy solution. If you were to suggest something like getting more exercise or going on a vacation as the easy solution to their troubles, your friend may not feel like you are appreciating the gravity of the situation. This isn’t something that is going to be solved overnight, so don’t make the mistake of thinking you can fix it right away.
At some point, it may be necessary to call for help. Of course, if you are with someone who has already begun a suicide attempt, or is going to do so imminently, call 911 (or the relevant emergency number in your area). While you may be asked by your friend not to seek help, it is important to remember that they are in a bad place mentally and emotionally at this time. If they get suicide counseling help and are eventually able to turn it around, they will likely thank you later for intervening when you did.