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How To Help a Friend or Family Member

It is hard to know what to say to a friend or family member who is suffering from depression or has lost a loved one to suicide. Though you cannot make the pain go away, your support can be key to helping your friend through this difficult time. There are many ways to help. Listed below are a few strategies that may be useful when supporting your friend:

Watch For Warning Signs

It is not uncommon for a person to feel depressed, confused, angry, or disconnected from others. If the intensity of these emotions does not ease in time, professional mental health resources can help. Sometimes someone who has experienced a loss by suicide will have suicidal thoughts him/herself. It is important to know the warning signs of suicide and, should you feel concerned, to ask your friend directly about thoughts of suicide.

If you notice any of the following warning signs after the initial loss, especially if they continue for more than two months, encourage your friend to seek professional help.

  • Extreme focus on the death

  • Talking about dying or attempting suicide

  • Talking about feeling the need to escape the pain

  • Persistent bitterness, anger or guilt

  • Difficulty making it to class and declining grades

  • A lack of concern for his/her personal welfare

  • Neglecting personal hygiene

  • Increase in alcohol or drug use

  • Inability to enjoy life

  • Withdrawal from others

  • Constant feelings of hopelessness

  • It can be hard to know how to bring up your concerns with your friend. If you’re worried about being perceived as invasive, use the following approach. “I am worried that you aren’t sleeping. There are resources that can help you.”

If a friend is considering suicide, get professional help immediately. If he/she is in a life-threatening emergency, or if you’re concerned that a friend may act soon on his/her suicide plan, call 911.

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