As friends, we are sometimes the first people to notice signs that someone might be going through a rough patch in life. When that rough patch becomes too much to handle, we are often the only people that can suspect that our friends might be suicidal. Teens are often more likely to be themselves around their peers than they are to parents, older family members, teachers, etc. They might guard themselves closely as to not let anything show, but, to you, their friend, they might not even notice that they are letting their guard down. For this reason, it is important that you are aware of some of the signs and risk factors that you might see in someone that is thinking about suicide. Note that “risk factors” are common situations, such as a parent’s divorce or loss of a loved one, which put teens at a higher risk of suicide.
Today, however, we will be focusing specifically on signs.
Signs are things that you can watch out for that might indicate to you that someone is possibly thinking about suicide. They are sometimes very obvious things, but a lot of times they are subtle things for which you have to watch out. They don’t always mean that someone is absolutely, one hundred percent suicidal, but they are definitely signs that should concern you. They are definitely not things that you should brush off as normal. Bellow we will discuss some of the more common signs. As you learn about them, think about your friends and see if there is anyone in your life who might be showing some of these.
Direct and Indirect Statements
Direct and indirect statements are probably some of the easier warning signs to notice. Direct statements are pretty simple. If a friend tells you bluntly that they are feeling suicidal, that they are thinking about killing themselves, or things along those lines, that is a direct statement. It is a statement that is directly identifying the fact that they are feeling suicidal.
Indirect statements are a bit more subtle, but they are still easy to notice if you know what to look for. Like direct statements, indirect statements acknowledge the fact that they are feeling suicidal. Indirect statements are things such as “I wish I could go to sleep and I never had to wake up,” “I can’t do this anymore,” “I wish I weren’t here,” “I wish I had never been born,” etc. They are things that allude to feelings of not wanting to be alive without explicitly saying it.
Isolation is another sign that you might be able to easily notice in your friends. Isolation is when someone suddenly starts to close themselves off from everyone else in their life. If you have a friend that you were used to seeing on a daily basis, who loves to go out with friends, and suddenly they want to spend time by themselves, then they might be displaying isolation due to possible suicidal feelings.
Often times, people who are feeling suicidal don’t realize that they are exhibiting behavioral signs of suicidal feelings. Behavioral signs are changes that you might notice especially with your close friends. There are several types of behavioral changes that may point to possible suicidal feelings. If you notice that one of your friends is suddenly eating more than usual or less than usual, that is a sign. If they are sleeping more than usual or less, that is also a warning sign.
Another type of behavioral change includes extreme mood swings. If you notice that one of your friends has recently become able to go from being happy to being extremely angry, or sad, or has had any type of mood swings, then that might alert you to the fact that they might be feeling suicidal.
Lastly, if you have noticed that your friend has become depressed or has expressed feeling of hopelessness for more than two weeks that can also be a sign that your friend might be feeling suicidal. If you notice this, or any of these behavioral changes, you might want to keep your eye out for your friend.
Idolizing death is another common sign that you might notice. Idolizing death happens when someone is talking about death a lot or are making drawings about death, or writing about death. This is a common form in which feelings of suicide are displayed. Idolizing death, of course, doesn’t always mean that someone is suicidal. There are plenty of people who “idolize death” but are not at all suicidal. However, it is still important to take notice if it is out of character.
Giving Away Prized Possessions
We all have things that we hold dear to ourselves. People tend to place emotional value on certain things. Perhaps they have a book they really love, or trophy they got when they were younger, or items that were gifted by important people in their life. Or perhaps they hold dear things that are very useful to them like their computer, or their phone, journal, or jewelry. When one of your friends starts to give away some of these possessions for no apparent reason, that might show that they are feeling suicidal. Giving away prized possessions is a sign of suicide, and an alarming one at that. Often, this warning sign appears when someone is seriously considering suicide and considered a plan or is already executing one. If you notice this, it is very important that you take action and get help.
Saying Final Goodbyes
Like giving away prized possessions, saying final goodbyes is a sign that indicates the person is considering suicide as a serious option. It is something that is typically done when someone has been thinking about suicide for a very long time. Saying final goodbyes is just as it sounds. This is when someone starts to say goodbye to their loved ones, and saying things like “thank you for all you’ve done for me,” etc. If one of your friends is saying goodbye, it is imperative that you get help immediately.
Is one of your friends showing some of these signs?
If you notice any of your friends showing a couple or more of these signs, it doesn’t mean that your friend is suicidal without a doubt. However, it does mean that you should pay attention to your friend and take steps to make sure that your friend remains safe. If you have reason to believe that your friend is suicidal, it is a good idea to get help from a trusted adult such as parents, teachers, or school counselors. They will have the resources you need to help your friend remain safe. If you don’t feel like you can go to any adults, asking your friend directly if they are feeling suicidal is a good way of talking about your friend’s feelings. Often times, people that are suicidal feel alone and trapped. Talking about their feelings can come as a great relief to many people. Lastly, if you or your friend needs someone to talk to about their suicidal feelings, Teen Lifeline is here to help. The Peer Counselors at Teen Lifeline are thoroughly trained to handle calls dealing with suicide. Teen Lifeline can help you or your friend come up with a plan that can help you with your situation. You can call or text us at 602-248-TEEN.
For the past four years Luis Barcelo has volunteered thousands of hours for Teen Lifeline as a Peer Counselor. Now, as an adult volunteer and communications intern at Teen Lifeline, he hopes to continue helping struggling teens wherever they may be.