Unfortunately, we live in a world where almost everyone knows or has known someone who is seriously depressed. Maybe you worry about them, but you’re not sure how to help or even if you can help. Or maybe you assume that, if they need something, they’ll reach out, and their silence must mean they have everything under control.

When it comes to depression and suicide, never assume a friend who is withdrawn or casually mentions having suicidal thoughts is “just going through a phase” or seeking attention. Take it seriously, when you notice these warning signs in a friend:

  • Talks about feeling hopeless or trapped, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, being in unbearable pain or killing themselves
  • Increases their alcohol or drug use
  • Searches for a way to end their life, either online or looks for materials or means
  • Withdraws from activities
  • Isolates from family and friends
  • Isn’t sleeping or is sleeping all the time
  • Visits or calls to say goodbye
  • Gives away possessions
  • Is aggressive or fatigued
  • Shows a loss of interest in activities
  • Seems depressed or anxious
  • Is more irritable or agitated and usual

Don’t wait for someone else to take action. When you notice your friend is exhibiting any of the signs listed above, tell them you’re worried about them. Ask them if they’re receiving help from a licensed mental health professional like Counseling and Psychological Services on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. Make time to hang out with them and show them you care.

If your friend expresses thoughts of suicide, first affirm them for being brave enough to say something. Allow them to express their feelings and accept those feelings. Be non-judgmental. Try not to act shocked. This is not the time to debate whether suicide is right or wrong or lecture on the value of life. Instead, show interest and support.

Although it can feel uncomfortable or scary, ask more questions:

  • Do you have a plan?
  • Do you have access to whatever you need to carry out your plan?
  • Do you have a time you’re planning to do it?

This might feel direct, but it’s best to talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide. Be willing to listen.

Next, help them remove or restrict access to whatever was needed for their plan, whether that was securing pills, weapons, sharp objects, etc. Help them seek support from family or other loves ones and a mental health professional. If they seem hesitant, unwilling or unable to keep themselves safe or you sense any imminent risk, call 911 or Campus Police at 402.472.2222 immediately.

Supporting a friend in a tough time can put a strain on your own mental and physical wellness, so don’t be afraid to get support for yourself. Speak with a therapist or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 to process and get the assistance you need.

Learn more about how to help a friend by visiting Suicide Prevention Lifeline website and get links to informational articles, videos and more by visiting the Counseling and Psychological Services website.

Counseling and Psychological Services can help. Call 402.472.5000 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to make an appointment or after hours to speak to an on-call therapist.