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What would you do if one of your friends threatened to commit suicide? If someone you know is suicidal, here's what to do.

What would you do if one of your friends threatened to commit suicide?

  • Would you laugh it off?
  • Would you assume that the threat was just a joke or a way of getting attention?
  • Would you be shocked and tell him or her not to say things like that?
  • Would you ignore it?

If you reacted in any of those ways you might be missing an opportunity to save a life, perhaps the life of someone who is very close and important to you. You might later find yourself saying, "I didn't believe she was serious," or "I never thought he'd really do it."

Suicide is a major cause of death. The American Association of Suicidology estimates that it claims 35,000 lives each year in the United States alone; authorities feel that the true figure may be much higher. A growing number of those lives are young people in their teens and early twenties. Although it is difficult to get an accurate count because many suicides are covered up or reported as accidents, suicide is now thought to be the second leading cause of death among young people.

If someone you know is suicidal, your ability to recognize the signs and your willingness to do something about it could make the difference between life and death.

Danger Signs of Youth Suicide

What would you do if one of your friends threatened to commit suicide? If someone you know is suicidal, here's what to do.No doubt you have heard that people who talk about suicide won't really do it. It isn't true. Before committing suicide, people often make direct statements about their intention to end their lives, or less direct comments about how they might as well be dead or that their friends and family would be better off without them. Suicide threats and similar statements should always be taken seriously.

People who have tried to kill themselves before, even if their attempts didn't seem very serious, are also at risk. Unless they are helped they may try again, and the next time the result might be fatal. Four out of five persons who commit suicide have made at least one previous attempt.

Perhaps someone you know has suddenly begun to act very differently or seems to have taken on a whole new personality. The shy person becomes a thrill-seeker. The outgoing person becomes withdrawn, unfriendly and disinterested. When such changes take place for no apparent reason or persist for a period of time, it may be a clue to impending suicide.

Making final arrangements is another possible indication of suicidal risk. In young people, such arrangements often include giving away treasured personal possessions, such as a favorite book or record collection.

What To Do If Someone Tells You They Want to Kill Themself

If someone confides in you that he or she is thinking about suicide or shows other signs of being suicidal, don't be afraid to talk about it.

Your willingness to discuss it will show the person that you don't condemn him or her for having such feelings. Ask questions about how the person feels and about the reasons for those feelings.

Ask whether a method of suicide has been considered, whether any specific plans have been made and whether any steps have been taken toward carrying out those plans, such as getting hold of whatever means of suicide has been decided upon.

Don't worry that your discussion will encourage the person to go through with the plan. On the contrary, it will help him or her to know that someone is willing to be a friend. It may save a life.

On the other hand, don't try to turn the discussion off or offer advice such as, "Think about how much better off you are than most people. You should appreciate how lucky you are." Such comments only make the suicidal person feel more guilty, worthless, and hopeless than before. Be a concerned and willing listener. Keep calm. Discuss the subject as you would any other topic of concern with a friend.