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5/22/24 blog post

how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and support a friend in need

One friend comforting another friend

We know that mental health is the crisis of our kids’ generation. And as a teen, it can be really scary if you have a friend or someone you are close with talking about suicide or wanting to die. You may not know what to do or if you should tell someone. We sat down with one of our pediatric mental health therapists at Dayton Children’s Hospital to learn more about how kids and teens can recognize the warning signs of suicide and what they can do to help.  

what are the warning signs of suicide?  

People who are at risk for suicide may have one or more of the following warning signs:  

They may talk about:  

  • Wanting to die 
  • Having guilt or shame  
  • Being a burden to others  

They may express feelings of:  

  • Feeling empty, hopeless, trapped or have no reason for living  
  • Extreme stress, anxiety, agitation or rage 
  • Unbearable emotional or physical pain  

They may have changes in behavior such as:  

  • Making a plan or researching ways to die 
  • Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving away important items to themselves 
  • Taking dangerous risks 
  • Displaying extreme mood swings 
  • Using drugs and/or alcohol more often  

what do I do if my friend is having thoughts of suicide?  

If you have a friend or someone you are close to expressing thoughts of suicide it can be very scary for you. You might also be feeling confused, overwhelmed, helpless or guilty. It is important to know that you are not responsible for your friend’s feelings or behaviors. You can support your friend by helping them get connected with a trusting adult. This might mean helping them share this information with their caregivers or telling an adult that you trust such as a teacher or school counselor. It might feel like you’re breaking your friend’s trust to tell an adult, but it is important that your friend gets the support they need from professionals who are trained to help. Remember, you should not keep this information to yourself. 

how can I support my friend who is struggling with self-harm or suicide?  

Your role is to be there and support them. You can do this in the following ways:  

  • Listen and be non-judgmental 
  • Show that you care 
  • Invite them to do things together 
  • Let your friend know that you accept them  
  • Don’t talk about your friend’s feelings with other friends 

If you’re concerned about a friend’s safety, it’s important to seek help from a trusted adult or professional. Supporting a friend in crisis can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone. Knowing the warning signs and providing the support a friend needs can help your friend find hope and healing.  

crisis resources available:  

  • Call 988 to connect with a mental health provider via telephone 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-888-628-9454 for Spanish) 
  • Text 741741 to connect with a mental health provider via text