There are strategies for helping a friend who is having thoughts about suicide. Although it is important to take all suicide threats seriously, you are not responsible for the life, health, or wellbeing of another.
Recognize your own boundaries.
The following guidelines might assist you to help a suicidal friend should the situation ever arise:
1. Be direct
If you suspect a friend is depressed and/or considering suicide, don't hesitate to ask directly whether they are having thoughts of hurting themselves If they answer "Yes", then ask the following three questions:
Have you thought about how you would do it?
Do you have what you need to carry out that plan?
When will you do it?
2. If you fear imminent harm, get help!
It is better to risk offending your friend than have them lose their life. Call your local Suicide Crisis Line: Life Line Tel: (+27 11) 715 2000; Dicon number (switchboard cell): 082 231 0805; SMS: 31393
3. Listen and be non-judgemental
Allow your friend to express his/her feelings without getting into an ethical debate about suicide. Don't ask "why?" or act shocked, as these responses can create distance and defensiveness. Keep them talking, so they can express the burden they are carrying and have a chance to calm down.
4. Express your concern and support
If the context of your relationship with the person warrants it, mention what you value about them and share your hope that they will reconsider. There is no right or wrong thing to say as long as you are speaking out of love and concern for that person.
5. Offer realistic hope
Let your friend know that alternatives are available without providing glib reassurances. Downplaying the complexity of the circumstances can add to the person's sense that no one understands.
Only make promises you can keep. For example, tell your friend that you are willing to talk/stay with him/her for one hour, not all night. Don't allow yourself to be sworn to secrecy.
Remove means. If possible, remove the person’s access to means of hurting themselves by taking away pills, knives, or other lethal weapons.
9. Call a suicide hotline
Consult with someone from a local or national suicide hotline. With permission, put your friend on the line. Life Line Tel: (+27 11) 715 2000; Dicon number (switchboard cell): 082 231 0805.
10. Involve others
No one should have to handle these issues alone. Do not hesitate to contact your friend's family members, other friends, a therapist, or even to involve the police if necessary.
11. Take care of your own needs
You my find your interactions with your friend to be stressful and emotionally draining. Be sure to seek support for yourself from your other friends, family members, or a professional.
12. Most important of all, do not assume responsibility for another person's health, happiness, or life
Balance being concerned and supportive with your own needs and be constructively candid about this balance with your friend as necessary.