How to deal with suicide

Tips for grieving adults, children, and schools dealing with a death by suicide.

How to deal with suicide

Death by suicide is always a tragic event. It can trigger a host of complicated and confusing emotions. Whether you are coping with the loss of a loved one or are helping a child or adult navigate such a loss, these tools can help.

How to cope when a friend or loved one dies by suicide

Accept your emotions. You might expect to feel grief and despair, but other common feelings include shock, denial, guilt, shame, anger, confusion, anxiety, loneliness, and even, in some cases, relief. Those feelings are normal and can vary throughout the healing process.

Don’t worry about what you “should” feel or do. There’s no standard timeline for grieving and no single right way to cope. Focus on what you need, and accept that others’ paths might be different from yours.

Care for yourself. Do your best to get enough sleep and eat regular, healthy meals. Taking care of your physical self can improve your mood and give you the strength to cope.

Draw on existing support systems. Accept help from those who have been supports in the past, including your family, your friends, or members of your faith-based community.

Talk to someone. There is often stigma around suicide, and many loss survivors suffer in silence. Speaking about your feelings can help.

Join a group. Support groups can help you process your emotions alongside others who are experiencing similar feelings. People who don’t think of themselves as support group types are often surprised by how helpful such groups can be.

Talk to a professional. Psychologists and other mental health professionals can help you express and manage your feelings and find healthy coping tools.

Talking to children and teens about death by suicide

Parents, teachers, school administrators, and other adults in a child’s life often feel unprepared to help a young person cope with a death by suicide. These strategies can help you foster open dialogue and offer support.

Deal with your own feelings first. Pause to reflect on and manage your own emotions so you can speak calmly to the child or children in your life.

Be honest. Don’t dwell on details of the act itself, but don’t hide the truth. Use age-appropriate language to discuss the death with children.

Validate feelings. Help the child put names to her emotions: “It sounds like you’re angry,” or “I hear you blaming yourself, but this is not your fault.” Acknowledge and normalize the child’s feelings. Share your own feelings, too, explaining that while each person’s feelings are different, it’s okay to experience a range of emotions.

Avoid rumors. Don’t gossip or speculate about the reasons for the suicide. Instead, when talking to a child or teen, emphasize that the person who died was struggling and thinking differently from most people.

Tailor your support. Everyone grieves at his or her own pace and in his or her own way. Some people might need privacy as they work through their feelings. Respect their privacy, but check in regularly to let them know they don’t have to grieve alone. Other children might want someone to talk to more often. Still others prefer to process their feelings through art or music. Ask the child how they’d like you to help. Let them know it’s okay to just be together.

Extend the conversation. Use this opportunity to reach out to others who might be suffering. Ask children: How can you and your peers help support each other? Who else can you reach out to for help? What can you do if you’re struggling with difficult emotions?

Tips for schools

Handle the announcement with care. Schools should not report the cause of a death as suicide if the information hasn’t been released by the family or reported in the media. When discussing a student’s death by suicide, avoid making announcements over the public address system. It’s helpful if teachers read the same announcement to each classroom, so that students know everyone is getting the same information.

Identify students who need more support. These can include friends of a student who died by suicide, those who were in clubs or on teams with the deceased, and those who are dealing with life stressors similar to the stressors experienced by the deceased. Less obviously, peers who had unfriendly relationships with the deceased—including those who teased or bullied the deceased or were bullied by the deceased. These students may also have complicated feelings of guilt and regret that require extra support.

Prevent imitation. Researchers have found news stories that use graphic language, sensationalize the death, or explicitly describe the method of suicide can increase the risk of additional deaths by suicide. When talking to children, avoid graphic details and focus instead on hope, healing, and the value of the person when they were alive.

Minimize positive attention. Dedicating special events to the deceased can make him or her seem like a celebrity. Vulnerable children might see such attention and think suicide is a way to be noticed. Instead of memorials, consider acknowledging the death through events such as suicide awareness walks or campaigns.

Choose words carefully. To protect peers who may also have suicidal thoughts, avoid phrases such as “She’s no longer suffering,” or “He’s in a better place.” Instead, focus on positive aspects of the person’s life. Avoid the term “committed suicide,” and instead use “died by suicide.”

Keep the lines of communication open. Help students identify adults they can trust and other resources they can draw on if they struggle with sadness or with their own suicidal feelings. Make sure students know where they can turn for help, not only after this loss, but in the months and years to come.

Finding help

If you or a child in your life is grieving a death by suicide, a psychologist can help you express and manage your feelings and find healthy ways to cope. Clinical psychologists are professionals trained to identify mental, emotional, and behavioral problems or challenges and find solutions for handling them. To find a licensed psychologist in your area, use our Psychologist Locator.

Resources


    1-800-273-TALK (8255)

APA gratefully acknowledges psychologists Mary Alvord, PhD, Nadine Kaslow, PhD, Shane Owens, PhD, and Robin Gurwitch, PhD, for their help with this fact sheet.

How to deal with suicide

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.

As difficult it is to talk about suicide, it’s important to also talk about the aftermath — grief after suicide — as this is also part of raising awareness.

Here are 7 ways to help someone deal with grief after the suicide of a loved one.

1. Realize that everyone grieves differently.

Grief is not a one-size-fits-all emotion. Some people are very expressive and verbal with their grief, while others are more subdued and quiet.

Don’t push someone out of their comfort zone just because you feel they may not be crying enough, and/or they don’t want to talk about it.

Ask them specifically what they need from you and reassure them that you will be there for them.

Many people are reluctant to ask others about what they may need during this type of situation and this is a mistake. Most often, when you ask someone what they need, they will tell you.

Once they tell you, respect what you’ve heard and act accordingly.

2. Don’t say “I know how you feel.”

It’s impossible for you to know how someone else feels.

It would be more appropriate to say something to the effect of “I can’t even imagine what you must be going through right now.”

3. Don’t speak negatively of the person who committed suicide.

Saying something to the effect of “That was such a selfish thing to do” should be avoided. While some people feel this may help the person grieving, it doesn’t.

Suicide is a very complicated matter. Simply stated, any comments about a person being selfish should never enter into your conversations.

4. Don’t ask intrusive questions.

The last thing anyone wants to be asked are questions such as “Did they leave a note?” or “Did you have any idea this was coming?”

First off, questions like this are none of your business. If the person grieving wants to share intimate details likes this with you, they will tell you on your own and won’t need your prompting.

Also, keep in mind that very personal questions like these may also be traumatizing to those left behind in that they may feel they missed a sign somewhere.

These types of questions may also trigger them to relive the moment they found out about the suicide.

5. Help with errands, meals, and childcare.

One of the most effective ways to be helpful to someone after a tragic loss is to help them attend to their day-to-day life.

Feelings of grief and loss can be extremely overwhelming after a suicide making even the simplest of tasks seem monumental to those grieving.

Go grocery shopping for them, make some meals, offer to pick the kids up from school, and engage the kids in activities so that the person grieving has time to collect their thoughts.

6. Help them find support resources.

Take some time to find support a support group — either a suicide loss group or a bereavement group and give them the information.

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You could say something like “I found a couple of support groups you may want to check out when you’re ready.” Don’t be pushy about it, just leave the information with them.

This shows that you care and are respectful of the space they may need while, at the same time, you’re helping them because they have one less thing they have to take on themselves since you found the information for them.

7. When the time is right, offer to help them make a book of memories in honor of the loved one they’ve lost.

This isn’t something you’ll want to do right away, but you can mention it as an idea for when the person is ready. For example, you could say something like “You know when you’re up to it, why don’t we get together and put together a memory book in their honor.”

Then, when the time is right, you can help put a memory book together of pictures, artwork, poems, letters, even small clothing articles, and/or things the deceased carried in their wallet.

There are no rules as to what can go into memory books, it’s whatever is important to the person or people making them.

Books like these can be very healing in that they help people focus on fond memories while they work through their grief and it gives them something tangible to look through when they are feeling down.

If you or somebody that you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, there is a way to get help. Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text “HELLO” to 741741 to be connected with the Crisis Text Line. You can also call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255. It’s open 24/7.

How to deal with suicide

Coping with the suicide of a friend is one of the most excruciating, incomprehensible things a person can experience. It leaves behind a wound that will seemingly never heal. Read on for some information on how to cope with the suicide of a friend.

Coping with Suicide and Grief

There is no one-size-fits-all way to grieve for a friend who died by suicide or to deal with that grief, but there are some things you can do to take care of yourself during the darkness.

Reach Out to a Friend or Family Member

When trying to cope with a friend’s suicide, nothing is worse than being alone with your thoughts and memories. When grief takes you over, reach out to someone you love. Distracting yourself can ease your pain, if only for a little while.

Emulate the Person’s Goodness

The best way to remember and honor your loved one is to keep his or her goodness alive. Show the people in your own life the same kindness, love, and compassion that person showed you.

Acknowledge Your Grief

We will all have to grieve for someone we love at some point in our lives. Don’t shy away from that pain. Grief doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. In the words of John Green, “It hurts because it matters.”

Try Not to Obsess Over the Reason Why

“Why did they do it?” is always the burning question when it comes to suicide. Often, it’s one that goes unanswered. In many cases, there is no answer. Suicide, especially in those with mental illness, can strike without warning or reason, just like a terminal illness. Letting the reason why consume you will only bring about more anguish.

In this week’s video, I talk about how I’ve coped with the recent suicide of a friend, and what the grieving process taught me.

In loving memory of Dale Folwer. Thank you for lighting up my life.

APA Reference
Lee-Smith, M. (2017, June 14). Coping with the Suicide of a Friend, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, October 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2017/06/coping-with-a-friends-suicide

Author: Mel Lee-Smith

Mel Lee-Smith is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor fuelled by a lifelong passion for language (and coffee). She writes because she wants to make a difference. Connect with her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Medium or Google+.

I am dealing with the suicide of a kind 43 year old male neighbor that I spoke with 3 days before he died. It seems that most people I speak with can’t understand the pain that I feel and suggest I try to forget/not feel this horrible pain. Even though I was not a part of his family, this loss is immense since he had begun to interact and spend time conversing and texting me. No other neighbor had taken interest in my plight as a single woman taking care of her 98 year old mom. He was incredibly intelligent, and don’t understand why he would do this.

In reply to I am dealing with the… by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Celeste,
I am so very sorry for your loss. And it is indeed a loss for you despite how some people are responding to you. Suicide is a painful, confusing thing that no one ever fully understands. When people tell you to forget or not feel the pain, know that this has more to do with their own discomfort and personal feelings than it does with you or your neighbor who died by suicide. Your own feelings are legitimate. It’s important to honor how you feel and allow yourself to experience the thoughts and emotions you do. It’s also important for you to have the right kind of support during this time, people who can help you deal with your own grief and move forward in meaningful ways. Moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting. It means being able to embrace your own life while still remembering your friend and doing things to honor his memory. There may be grief support groups in your area (a google search or checking meetup .com may help you locate some). Mental health therapy can be extremely helpful in dealing with a loss like this (as well as the challenges of being a single mom and caring for your own elderly mother). There’s a great online organization called Heal Grief (healgrief.org) that might be a source of support and understanding for you, too. (HealthyPlace is not connected to Heal Grief.)There may never be an answer as to why he died by suicide, but support groups and/or therapy can help bring some clarity and closure. Do be patient with yourself in this difficult time, and, while this is easier said than done, practice self-care. Eating healthily, sleeping and resting, and even a little bit of daily exercise (a walk around the block) will help keep your brain and body healthy. That sounds silly in a time like this, but it supports your mind in dealing with grief and loss.

Thank you do much for the post and especially video. It felt as if you were talking about the same kind of person I knew. We had lost contact shortly after college, now it’s been 4+ years since then. To me it’s particularly triggering because she helped me when I was at my darkest. It feels now as though I could’ve returned the favor. . . . .

Do you know how to handle repeated suicide threats? Princola Shields did not have to die. The 19-year-old mentally ill woman was serving a sentence at Indiana Women’s Prison when guards moved her into temporary confinement in a shower stall no bigger than a hall closet, according to the Indianapolis Star. For three hours she screamed for help, begging to know what she’d done wrong, then threatening to kill herself and yelling that she was dying. Guards allegedly told her to shut up and ignored her. She was later found hanging from the shower stall. Cleary, her suicide threats were not handled properly.

Shields made suicide threats frequently and had six suicide attempts on her record. While she was in treatment as a child, she told a doctor it was just a way to get attention. How should a suicide threat be handled then? Is there a right way how to handle repeated suicide threats?

Always Take a Repeated Suicide Threat Seriously

People have all kinds of ways of getting attention. However, very few people use the threat of suicide to get attention, which is why people should always take a suicide threat seriously. If the person is making the threat up, which is unlikely, they need to be taught that they are valued and will always be taken seriously (What Is a Value Judgement?). They also need to be taught healthier ways of seeking attention.

Psychologist David Miller told the Star that all suicide threats should be taken seriously, even the ones the patient says were made up. The Star reports:

When mental health professionals accept a child’s explanation of threatening suicide as a way to get attention, it “tends to minimize” the seriousness of the situation, said Miller, who is also an associate professor of school psychology at University at Albany, State University of New York, and president of the American Association of Suicidology. Anyone who talks about wanting to kill herself or himself is sending a clear message, he said, and the threat should always be treated seriously.

A lot of times when people don’t treat it seriously, that simply reinforces the individual’s viewpoint that they’re not valued.

What Happens When a Suicide Threat Isn’t Taken Seriously

How to deal with suicideI nearly died when my repeated suicide threats weren’t handled well, so this hits especially close to home.

While in the state hospital system, I was frequently suicidal (Understanding and helping the Suicidal Person). On one occasion, I told the staff I was suicidal and nothing happened. I showed them my note. I told them my plan. Nothing happened. I finally made an attempt, only to be discovered–at which point I said, indifferently, that I’d miscalculated how long it’d take to die and told them saving my life was the worst thing they could have done. The unit psychiatrist said, “We had another borderline on this unit and every other word out of her mouth was ‘suicide,’ so we just assumed you were the same way.”

I can not emphasize enough that a suicide threat, even a repeated suicide threat, should always be taken seriously. It’s far better to take a threat seriously and not have it be serious than to ignore a threat and have it be serious. People seldom make these threats up. And if, by a slim chance, they are, they’re making a cry for help that needs to be heard. The consequences of not taking a threat seriously are simply too great to risk.

How to Handle Repeated Suicide Threats

The most important thing you can say to someone who is suicidal is, “I value your life and want to help you. What can I do?”

Other important things include:

  • “You must be in a lot of pain to feel that way. How can I help?”
  • “Thank you for sharing that with me; you were very brave. What can I do to help?”
  • “You say you feel like killing yourself to get the pain to stop. What other options do you have and how can I help you find them?”

Most suicidal people don’t want to die–they just want the pain to stop and think that death is the best way for that to happen (Avoid Suicide by Looking Forward to the Little Things).

A suicide threat should always be taken seriously because it is so rarely made up. Repeated suicide threats are symptomatic of a severe mental illness, in which case a person needs treatment, not isolation and punishment. That’s how to handle repeated suicide threats–take the person seriously, tell them you value them, and help them to find other coping skills in therapy.

You can also find Becky Oberg on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and Linkedin.

Although suicide isn’t a subject most of us like to talk about, the fact is that September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide is an issue that has been occupying my mind for more than five decades. It all began when I was 10 years old and my grandmother took her life in my childhood home – her bedroom was next to mine, and I’m the one who found her.

Ironically, my grandmother took her life on Labor Day weekend in 1964. She was caring for me when my immigrant parents went to work. Although her death certificate never specifically stated suicide, it did say that she died from an overdose of sleeping pills.

I suppose I’ll never know the whole truth, but what I did learn after reading her diary years later was that she’d been depressed prior to taking her life. Unfortunately, depression, other forms of mental illness, and substance abuse are common precursors to suicide.

Back in the 1960s, there was little talk or awareness about the warning signs of suicide. Today, there’s a push to raise public awareness about the topic, and also to connect survivors with postintervention services.

In pre-Covid-19 times, there was a large national event held in cities across America called The Out of Darkness Walk, which was a fundraiser geared to suicide awareness. My hope is that it will return in the years to come.

When my grandmother died, my mother gave me a journal so I could write down my feelings. I discovered at an early age that writing helped with the healing process. Children tend to be quite resilient, but as I grew older and when I found my grandmother’s diary, I had many questions about why she took her life.

In fact, I began to miss her more and more the older I got. I was so sad that she was never able to share my growing-up years with me. However, I was grateful for all the time I did get to spend with her, and for everything she taught me.

She encouraged me to follow my passions, always dress nice, and take the high road. I can only imagine what other lessons she would have imparted to me. To help me further understand her life and death, and to honor her, I wrote my first memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal.

If you’ve had a friend or loved one who committed suicide – whether you feel the agony of guilt or not – there’s no doubt that you’ll need certain tools to help you heal from this type of loss. Here are some that might offer you comfort:

Try to Live in the Present Moment

Accept what happened, and trust that with time, everything will fall into place. Do mindful meditation and relaxation exercises, which include deep breathing. This is especially important in the early-morning hours and before going to bed at night.

Seek Support

Speak to friends, family members, therapists, or spiritual advisers. The more you reach out for assistance, the easier it will be to heal. Many people use social media as a support system, as it helps them feel encircled by the thoughts of caring individuals. Be in the company of those who make you feel better rather than those who bring you down.

Write Down Your Thoughts

There’s nothing like journaling to allow your feelings to flow. You might also consider writing a letter to the deceased loved one, expressing what you feel.

Engage in Fun or Relaxing Activities

Consider doing whatever distracts you – whether it’s being in nature, going to a movie, getting a spa treatment, reading your favorite book, writing letters, or participating in an athletic activity. Follow your heart.

Practice Self-Care

This means being mindful of what makes you feel good, but it’s also about eating balanced meals and being sure you get enough exercise.

Be Patient with Yourself and Others

Healing from grief takes time. It’s important to cry when you feel like crying, and sitting and contemplating when you feel like contemplating. As time goes on, you’ll develop a greater sense of peace and acceptance.

Remember, no one is an island. When we’re experiencing deep emotional pain, we must reach out and seek the help of those who are able to be our guiding lights.

Have you experienced the loss of a loved one due to suicide? What were your initial thoughts? How did you cope with the loss? What tools helped you the most?

Most people can be helped in getting through their moment of crisis if they have someone who will spend time with them, listen, take them seriously and help them talk about their thoughts and feelings. Almost every suicidal crisis has at its center a strong ambivalence: “I can’t handle the pain anymore,” but not necessarily, “I want to be dead forever!” What most suicidal people want is not to be dead but some way to get through the terrible pain they are experiencing and someone they can turn to during those terrible moments of fear and desperation.

Having someone to talk to can make a big difference. However, you may need to be persistent before they are willing to talk. Talking about suicide or suicidal thoughts will not push someone to kill themselves. It is also not true that people who talk about killing themselves will not actually try it. Take any expressed intention of suicide very seriously. While you may not be able to solve these problems for a friend or classmate, you may be able to help the person find someone who can help.

How to respond to a person who is potentially suicidal

1. Recognize the warning signs of depression and suicide risk.

Research suggests that the majority of people who attempt suicide literally do something to let others know their intentions before they act. These “warning signs” consist of personal behaviors, verbal and non-verbal communications. Mental and emotional illnesses such as depression and bi-polar disorders are often tied to suicidal feelings. The risk of suicide may be greatest as the person’s depression begins to lift.

2. Take suicidal statements seriously and trust your instincts.

Fifty to 75 percent of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. Imminent signs must be taken seriously.

3. Get involved and use “active listening.”

By listening to what the person in crisis has to say and by asking direct and open questions, we show our willingness to talk about anything with that person, including his/her feelings about suicide.

  • Start by telling the person you are concerned and give him or her examples.
  • Do not attempt to argue someone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care, that he or she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary and that depression can be treated. Avoid the temptation to say, “You have so much to live for,” or “Your suicide will hurt your family.”

4. Encourage the person to seek professional help.

  • Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a physician or mental health professional immediately.
  • Individuals contemplating suicide often don’t believe they can be helped, so you may have to do more.
  • Help the person find a knowledgeable mental health professional or a reputable treatment facility, and take them to the treatment.

5. While directly asking about suicide can be scary, the person you’re concerned about needs you to ask, “Do you feel so badly you are thinking about suicide?”

Almost everyone thinks about suicide at some point in their life. By listening and observing the “warning signs” of suicide and asking direct questions, we demonstrate our willingness to talk about anything with the person in crisis, including his/her feelings about suicide. He or she is likely to feel understood and that you understand the pain they are in. It can be a great relief to the person if his or her suicidal feelings can be brought out into the open and discussed freely without shock or disapproval; it shows that you are taking the person seriously.

6. If the answer is “Yes,” take the person’s response seriously and continue the “Suicide Risk” assessment questions.

  • “Do you have a plan to take your own life?” or “Have you thought of how you would do it?”
  • “Do you have the means or materials available to act out your plan?” If so, “What and where are they?”
  • “Have you set a time?” or “Have you decided when you would do it?”

If the answer is still “Yes,” ask:

  • “Have you ever attempted suicide before?”
  • “What happened then?”

If the person has a definite plan, the means are available and the time is set and immediate, you should consider the person to be high risk for suicide.

7. Do not leave a person whom you feel is “high risk” for suicide alone, even for a moment.

If a person has expressed suicidal feelings, has a plan, the means available and has a time set, you should always take him or her seriously. If there is any doubt, take him or her seriously. A person who is “high risk” for suicide should not be left alone. Keep talking to that person, stay with him or her or arrange for another party (someone who that person trusts and feels comfortable with) to stay with them. Remove from the vicinity any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used for suicide.

8. If the person in crisis has taken some form of life-threatening action, get help immediately.

If a person has taken any action that you believe could be considered life-threatening, don’t hesitate to get that person to a hospital yourself (if practical) or call an ambulance or emergency services.

Additional suggestions

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don’t dare him or her to do it.
  • Don’t ask “why.” This encourages defensiveness.
  • Offer empathy, not sympathy.
  • Never promise to keep suicide a secret. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.

Do not counsel the person yourself, seek professional help.

Don’t pretend you have all the answers. The most important thing you can do may be to help them find help.

Don’t be afraid of being wrong. It is difficult for even experts to understand who is at serious risk of suicide and who is not. Many of the warning signs for suicide could also indicate problems with drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, depression, or another mental illness, which still need professional intervention.

As a parent or caregiver, you can play a major role in identifying if a young person is considering suicide.

What are suicidal behaviors?

  • Suicide occurs when someone purposely takes his or her own life.
  • A suicide attempt occurs when someone tries to take their own life but does not succeed. The person who survives may have serious injuries such as brain damage, broken bones, and organ failure. The survivor may also have depression or other mental health issues.
  • Suicidal ideation occurs when someone is thinking about taking their life.

Why do teens become suicidal?

There are many reasons why teens become suicidal. A suicide rarely has just one cause.

The teen years are an extremely stressful time for many children.Untreated mental illness, especially depression, is the leading cause for suicide. Many people who die by suicide suffer from untreated or poorly treated depression resulting from difficult life experiences.These life experiences might include family changes or illness, loss of family or friends, and feeling lonely, helpless, hopeless or depressed.

How do I know if my teen is at risk for suicide?

The following factors may increase the risk of suicide or attempted suicide. However, these risk factors do not always lead to a suicide.

  • Depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often combined with other mental disorders)
  • Feeling hopeless and worthless
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Physical illness
  • Feeling detached and isolated from friends, peers and family
  • Family history of suicide, mental illness, or depression
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Access to a weapon in the home
  • Knowing someone with suicidal behavior, such as a family member, friend , or celebrity
  • Coping with being gay (homosexuality) in an unsupportive family, community, or hostile school environment
  • Incarceration (time in prison)

What factors can help protect my teen from becoming suicidal?

  • Effective medical treatment for mental and physical health problems and substance abuse
  • Strong support network of friends, family, peer groups or outside activities
  • Skills in solving problems, resolving conflicts and handling disputes without violence
  • Cultural and/or religious beliefs that discourage suicide

What are warning signs or behaviors that my teen may be thinking about suicide?

Teen suicide often occurs after a recent stressful life event in the family, with a friend, or at school. It is important for you to know the warning signs for suicide so you can get your teen the help she/he needs. A teen who is considering suicide might have one or more of these behaviors:

  • Suicidal ideation (thinking, writing, drawing or talking about suicide, death, dying or the afterlife)
  • Dependence on alcohol or drugs
  • Lack of a sense of purpose in life
  • Trouble focusing or thinking clearly
  • Increased withdrawal from family, friends, school, jobs and society. Poor grades may be a sign that the child is withdrawing at school.
  • Lack of interest in favorite activities
  • Reckless or risk-taking behaviors
  • Rash, bizarre or violent behavior
  • Changed eating or sleeping patterns (such as being unable to sleep or sleeping all the time)
  • Deep feelings of grief, uncontrolled anger, anxiety, shame, hopelessness, guilt or anxiety

What are signs that my teen may have a suicide plan?

  • Threatening to or talking about wanting to hurt or kill him/herself
  • Creating suicide notes
  • Expressing odd or troubling thoughts
  • Showing a dramatic change in personality or appearance
  • Throwing or giving away or promising to give away valued possessions to family members or friends
  • Talking about not being around in the future or "going away"
  • Searching for and trying to obtain weapons, pills, or other means ways to take their own life

How can I help a teen who is thinking or talking about suicide?

  • Do not ignore these warning signs.
  • Talk openly with your child and express concern, support, and love. If your child does not feel comfortable talking to you, suggest that s/he talk to another trusted adult such as a family member, a pastor, minister, rabbi or priest, a coach, a school counselor, or a family doctor.
  • Do not leave your teen alone.
  • Remove the objects your child might use to harm him/herself. Make sure your teen does not have access to guns, other possible weapons or medications.
  • Seek help immediately from:
    • Your child’s doctor;
    • Mental health services (Ask your doctor for a referral.);
    • The nearest emergency room;
    • Emergency services (911); and/or
    • A suicide hotline.

    How can I find a suicide hotline?

      : Text “start” to 741-741 :1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) : 1-800-850-8078, (specializes in gay and lesbian suicide prevention)

    What NYS laws related to the prevention of suicide are important for me to know?

    Timothy’s Law requires that health insurance providers provide comparable (similar) coverage for mental illnesses as they provide for other medical care. Timothy’s Law ensures that adults and children with mental illness receive the same health care coverage benefits as those provided for physical ailments.

    Only people covered by group health insurance or a school blanket health insurance policy are eligible for the mental health benefits required by Timothy’s Law. Group health insurance is insurance that you obtain through an employer or through an association, such as a chamber of commerce. A school blanket health insurance policy covers students enrolled in a college or university who purchase their insurance through the school.

    My older brother killed himself three years ago. It was very sudden and unexpected. I’ve been seeing a therapist and trying to move on with my life and looking from the outside, I’ve done OK – filling my life with studies and work and stuff. I’m also lucky to have a great boyfriend who is a huge support. Yet I feel anxious, lonely and sad almost all of the time. I feel guilt for what happened. I feel isolated and that nobody understands what I’m going through. It’s very rare for me to get to know new people, because I feel that I can’t get close to them unless they know what I’ve been through, and I don’t want to tell, because it’s an uncomfortable discussion for so many. So many of my old friends became very distant after the suicide – I guess they didn’t know how to react and/or weren’t able to be around me anymore.

    Has anybody gone through the same/similar? I know the suicide of your loved one is not a thing “to get over of” and I would never want it to be that way, but how have you coped with the feeling that no one truly can understand what you’re going through?

    I didn’t experience a family member committing suicide. I experienced a mother repeatedly threatening to commit suicide (but not), and I experienced wanting to commit suicide myself, even coming at one point to a peace of mind about doing so (but obviously, did not).

    I am sorry that you are suffering the consequences of your brother committing suicide. One reason, I think, that I didn’t go through with my wanting to do this is that I didn’t want to hurt the one or two people that will be hurt as a result of it. The reason I wanted to do it was to stop my own pain, my own distress and anguish.

    Regarding how to cope with feeling that no one truly can understand what you are going through- you can share more about what you are going through right here on this thread and I will read your sharing attentively and respond thoughtfully. Then there will be someone, one person at the least, who will truly understand what you are going through.

    And then, there will be more people, in person, in your life, who will understand.

    Hi mariajohanna
    Have you tried joining a grief support group? I’ve registered in one, but I only have my next appointment in September. What I think you need is to be able to talk to people that can relate to you, that can feel what you feel. I lost my brother two weeks ago and I’m also feeling people whom I considered friends retracting slowly, like they don’t know how to deal with my grieving so they’d rather be apart. And when I am with them I just don’t feel good anymore. It’s like my sadness and my silence makes them uncomfortable and they just try to be normal like nothing’s happened, but sometimes you just need to talk about it and to receive some support. Isn’t it just sad that when you lose a loved one you also end up losing friends?
    Try to be around the people you know you can talk about and won’t be uncomfortable.
    I hope it gets better for you.
    Big hug

    I lost an uncle and a school friend to suicide. With my uncle it wasn’t a surprise since he had been dealing with severe depression for a long time, but with my friend it was a complete shock. Here were somethings that helped me through the grieving process:

    1) Let yourself feel every *single* emotion you have – don’t judge what bubbles up. If you feel angry (I felt that way toward my uncle for awhile, I was furious he could be so selfish to leave my dear aunt and two kids, “I don’t care how much pain he was in,” I remember saying to my mother, “you don’t do that to somebody!”) feel anger. If you feel guilt feel, feel that too. (After my friend’s suicide, I keep playing back all of our interactions looking for clues to his mental state – I berated my self for not seeing the sign sooner and not doing anything to stop his death.) The only way to let these these emotions go is to sit with them – don’t try to run from them or suppress them. Eventually, after they’ve been allow to say their peace, they will leave.

    2) Repeat a million times to yourself this mantra, “IT IS NOT MY FAULT.” Friends and family of suicide victims are left believing that they should’ve saved the person, or wondering if something they said/did “drove” them to kill themselves. This is dangerous, and untrue.

    3) You are correct, many people don’t know how to deal with death, much less one by suicide. @elm0505 is wise in advising joining a support group. It helped my aunt a lot to share her feelings with people who experienced the same thing and understood what she was dealing with. If you don’t want to join an in person group, there are lots of ones online.

    That being said, don’t be afraid to voice your feelings to your current group friends. Be very specific what kind of support you want. I remember telling my boyfriend at the time of my uncle’s death, “just hold me and listen.” He looked relieved and later on said how grateful he was that I gave him direction – he wanted to help but was terrified of saying / doing the wrong thing. If your friends are quality people, they’ll come back around.

    4) Take great self care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep, watch a funny movie. Emotional healing can be draining.

    Overview

    Suicide is the eleventh highest cause of death for all age groups, but it is the third most likely cause of death among children, teens, and young adults (ages 1024). Furthermore, middle-aged and elderly people suffering pain or declining health seem more open to the idea of assisted suicide. Still, families and friends are devastated when someone close to them commits suicide. Among their agonized questions is this: "Is suicide the unforgivable sin–

    Let's see what Scripture teaches for those who live on after a loved one commits suicide as well as help in understanding why anyone would consider that act.

    Table of Contents

    SCRIPTURE: 1 Samuel 31; Psalm 23; Matthew 17:1418

    • Identify the Current Issue

    • Discover the Eternal Principles

    Teaching point one: Not all choices are rationalbut irrational choices are not necessarily sinful or even unforgivable.

    Teaching point two: God's sovereign grace provides hope and healingand "a way out"that honors him.

    Teaching point three: When our autonomy confronts God's sovereignty, there is potential for committing the unforgivable sin.

    • Apply Your Findings

    ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN READER

    Is Suicide Unforgivable?, by Frederica Mathewes-Green (March/April 2003, Page 18, 9 printed pages)