First of all, listen to your friend’s suffering. Reassure him/her by saying that you’re there and you won’t talk about it to just anyone. Nevertheless, suggest including a third person (an adult) in your circle of trust. You can help choose this trusted adult: a parent, a teacher, a professional from the CLSC, a counsellor from a youth centre, or a counsellor from Tel-jeunes. This adult is trained to help your friend properly and will give him/her another vision of his/her situation.
After that, the best way of helping your friend is to do your usual activities again, while continuing to encourage him/her and show that you appreciate him/her.
Does a person who’s thinking about suicide send signals?
Yes, but these signals can be heard to detect, especially if they’re just hinted at. Listen for these kinds of comments: You’ll be better off without me, I’m scared of what I might do, I can’t go on…
There are also actions that may tell you that something’s wrong. Your friend might give away his/her favourite things, isolate himself/herself, show a new interest in guns or drugs, lose interest in everything, be irritable, take strange risks, etc.
If you’re worried about what you see or hear, don’t hesitate to ask your friend direct questions. You’ll help your friend a lot by taking the first steps toward confidences.
My friend doesn’t want to see a professional. What should I do?
Your friend probably needs to feel reassured that you won’t abandon him/her by sending him/her to an adult. You can say, “I understand that you don’t want to talk about it, but your secret is too important for us to handle alone without help” or “I won’t let you down. I’ll be there for you, but we need help.” You can also remind your friend of the things you’ve observed about him/her and talk about your anxiety, if he/she tries to play down the situation.
If your friend still refuses to contact a trusted adult, you need to do it yourself. It’s a pain, but it doesn’t really matter if your friend is temporarily pissed off as long as he/she’s safe.
Did You Know? 5 Common Myths About Suicide
Talking about suicide with a friend will make them do it
Hearing someone talk about suicidal thoughts won’t inspire anyone to commit suicide! If you share your fears about a friend’s suicidal tendencies, you’re really opening the door for discussion so that your friend can express what he/she feels. Your friend will feel that you accept him/her as he/she is, and that can help break his/her isolation. But remember: just because your friend talks about it, that doesn’t mean that it’s not serious any more or that it’s all over and done with.
A person who is suicidal wants to die
Someone who has suicidal thoughts doesn’t really want to stop living: they want to stop hurting and they feel they’ve already unsuccessfully tried everything possible to make things better. Suicide then seems like the only option to take away the pain. Your friend doesn’t want to die; he/she just doesn’t want to live like that any more… It’s easier to help when you understand that difference.
Talking about suicide is a form of attention-seeking
Suicide is complicated. So when someone confides in us, we can never know everything that’s still hidden. Some people talk about suicide easily, while others are more reserved, but all suicidal thoughts need to be taken seriously. Even if you think someone’s just talking about suicide to attract attention, take them seriously. Manipulation is also a distress signal: your friend needs help.
Committing suicide is a choice
Nobody commits suicide by choice. It’s really the opposite: suicidal thoughts are a reaction to a perceived lack of choice. The suicidal person sees life as unbearable, they can’t stand any more pain, and they don’t see any other way to stop the hurting.
Suicide is a solution
A person who has suicidal thoughts has tried all the strategies they know to reduce their suffering, but unsuccessfully. They may then feel despairing and discouraged, which leads them to think about suicide.
The person becomes “blind” because of their problems. They have a feeling that there are no more solutions to ease their pain, which has become intolerable.
By asking for help, a person with suicidal thoughts may see their problems from a different angle and identify other solutions that might help.