Everyone feels sad, depressed, or angry sometimes — especially when dealing with the pressures of school, friends, and family. But some people may feel sadness or hopelessness that just won't go away, and even small problems may seem like too much to handle.
Depression can affect many areas of a person's life and outlook. Someone who has very intense feelings of depression, emotional pain, or irritability may begin to think about suicide.
You may have heard that people who talk about suicide won't actually go through with it. That's not true. People who talk about suicide may be likely to try it.
Other warning signs that someone may be thinking of suicide include:
As a friend, you may also know if the person is going through some tough times. Sometimes, a specific event, stress, or crisis — like a relationship breaking up or a death in the family — can trigger suicidal behavior in someone who is already feeling depressed and showing the warning signs listed above.
If you have a friend who is talking about suicide or showing other warning signs, don't wait to see if he or she starts to feel better. Talk about it. Most of the time, people who are considering suicide are willing to discuss it if someone asks them out of concern and care.
Some people (both teens and adults) are reluctant to ask teens if they have been thinking about suicide or hurting themselves. That's because they're afraid that, by asking, they may plant the idea of suicide. This is not true. It is always a good thing to ask.
Starting the conversation with someone you think may be considering suicide helps in many ways. First, it allows you to get help for the person. Second, just talking about it may help the person to feel less alone, less isolated, and more cared about and understood — the opposite of the feelings that may have led to suicidal thinking to begin with. Third, talking may provide a chance to consider that there may be another solution.
Asking someone if he or she is having thoughts about suicide can be difficult. Sometimes it helps to let your friend know why you are asking. For instance, you might say, "I've noticed that you've been talking a lot about wanting to be dead. Have you been having thoughts about trying to kill yourself?"
Listen to your friend without judging and offer reassurance that you're there and you care. If you think your friend is in immediate danger, stay close — make sure he or she isn't left alone.
Even if you're sworn to secrecy and you feel like you'll be betraying your friend if you tell, you should still get help. Share your concerns with an adult you trust as soon as possible. You can also call the toll-free number for a suicide crisis line (like 1-800-SUICIDE) or a local emergency number (911).
The important thing is to notify a responsible adult. Although it may be tempting to try to help your friend on your own, it's always safest to get help.
Sometimes even if you get help and adults intervene, a friend or classmate may attempt or die by suicide. When this happens, it's common to have many different emotions. Some teens say they feel guilty — especially if they felt they could have interpreted their friend's actions and words better. Others say they feel angry with the person for doing something so selfish. Still others say they feel nothing at all — they are too filled with grief to process their emotions.
When someone attempts suicide, those who know that person may feel afraid or uncomfortable about talking to him or her. Try to overcome these feelings of discomfort — this is a time when someone absolutely needs to feel connected to others.
If you are having difficulty dealing with a friend or classmate's suicide, it's best to talk to an adult you trust. Feeling grief after a friend dies by suicide is normal. But if that sadness begins to interfere with your everyday life, it's a sign that you may need to speak with someone about your feelings.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2014
|National Mental Health Association (NMHA) NMHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research, and service.|
|Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) SAVE offers information on suicide prevention. Call: (800) SUICIDE|
|American Foundation for Suicide Prevention This group is dedicated to advancing the knowledge of suicide and the ability to prevent it.|
|Friends for Survival Friends for Survival is a national outreach program for survivors of suicide loss.|
|Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance The mission of this group is to educate patients, families, professionals, and the public about depressive and manic-depressive illnesses.|
|Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) CMHS is a federal agency that provides information about mental health to users of mental health services, their families, the general public, policy makers, providers, and the media.|
|National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP) This site provides information, a listing of events, and publications on suicide prevention.|
|Covenant House Nineline Hotline This hotline accepts calls 24 hours a day at, and offers help to runaways and other kids in crisis. Call: (800) 999-9999|
|When Depression Is Severe Severe depression can cloud a person's thinking and lead some people to think that life isn't worth living. But severe depression can be treated. Find out what to do and how to get help in this article for teens.|
|Suicide We all feel overwhelmed by difficult emotions or situations sometimes. If someone is seriously depressed, suicidal thinking is a real concern. Here are warning signs and ways to get help.|
|Why Do People Get Depressed? There's no one reason why people get depressed - many different things can play a role. Find out more about the things that can trigger depression.|
|My Friend Is Talking About Running Away: What Should I Do? Do you know someone who is having major problems? No matter how bad things get, running away is never a solution. Find out how to help your friend.|
|Stress & Coping Center Visit our stress and coping center for advice on how to handle stress, including different stressful situations.|
|Cutting It can be hard to understand, but people who cut themselves sometimes do it because it actually makes them feel better. They are overflowing with emotions - like sadness, depression, or anger - that they have trouble expressing.|
|School Counselors School counselors can give you all sorts of tips and support on solving problems and making good decisions. But how do you meet with a counselor and what is it like? Find out here.|
|Going to a Therapist Getting help with emotions or stress is the same as getting help with a medical problem like asthma or diabetes. This article explains how therapy works and how it can help with problems.|
|Death and Grief If someone close to you has died, you probably feel overwhelmed with grief. Read about some things that might help you cope.|
|Dealing With Anger Do you wonder why you fly off the handle so easily sometimes? Do you wish you knew healthier ways to express yourself when you're steamed? Check out this article for help with dealing with anger.|
|Getting Help for Intense Grief Going through grief and loss is never easy. But in some situations, grief can feel especially intense – even overwhelming. Find out what to do in this article for teens.|
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