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How to Deal With a Friend Who Says He Wants to Kill Himself

by Kathryn Walsh ; Updated September 28, 2017

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people age 10 to 24..

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Helping a friend who wants to end his life may seem like an overwhelming task, but it’s essential to act when someone tells you he wants to die. Never assume that he’s being dramatic or looking for attention. According to the World Health Organization, about one million people commit suicide each year, with about 20 times that number making attempts to end their lives. Of people who do go on to commit suicide, 70 percent make some attempt to tell someone about their plans.

Don’t let your friend out of your sight. Stay with her until she is feeling more positive and you believe that she’s not in danger.

Listen. Ask your friend to explain why he wants to die. Stay calm and focused on what he says. Do not say things that seem to brush off the person’s problems, like “You’re just having a bad day” or “You have so much to live for.”

Ask her about her plans with questions such as “Are you planning on hurting yourself?” If she says yes, ask specifically what she plans to do and if she has the means to carry it out. If she has a plan that will certainly end in death, like shooting herself with a gun that she owns or swallowing a full bottle of sleeping pills she has at home, it’s imperative that you act immediately to get her help before she leaves your sight. If she doesn’t have a plan, her risk of killing himself is slightly less serious.

Offer to help him find help. Look up a suicide hotline that he can call right away. While he talks on the phone, research psychiatrists and treatment options in your area like support groups or inpatient treatment for people who are suicidal.

Keep her away from drugs and alcohol. Drinking or taking drugs may make her feel even more depressed and reckless.

Tell his parents what he told you immediately if your friend is under 18 or a college student who is still under the care of his parents. Go with him to talk to them if he’s willing to talk to them himself. If he refuses to tell them, call them yourself.

Check in with her regularly until you know she is getting treatment of some kind. Call and text her frequently throughout the day to ask how she is feeling. If she forms a plan to end her life or refuses to get help, call 911.

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