What If Your Friend Doesn’t Want to Live?

Jim Still-Pepper

devozine DesperateHave any of your friends ever thought about suicide? Could you help a friend who said, “I want to die?”


When a teenager thinks about suicide, he or she usually turns to a friend (not family) to talk about what is going on. Though it may seem  hard, you often can help.


Action Steps

Most suicidal teens do not want to die, but they do not know what else to do. You can help a friend who is contemplating suicide by taking these steps:

  • S-tay calm. Don’t panic. You can handle this!
  • U-nderstand him/her as best you can. Your friend needs your help, not your judgment. Take him/her seriously, even if he/she is trying to make a joke out of it.
  • I-nvolve others. Tell an adult, even if your friend begs you not to. It is better to have a friend mad at you than dead. You can also encourage him/her to call a local or national helpline, such as The Covenant House (1-800-999-9999) or Boys Town (1-800-448-3000).
  • C-are for him/her. Tell him/her how much you love him/her. Remind him/her how much God loves him/her.
  • I-nvolve yourself. Stay with him/her until you get help. A suicidal person should not be left alone. Be available for him/her, especially during the week after he/she first talks with you about suicide.
  • D-evelop options with him/her. Suicidal people have trouble seeing any other way of solving their problems. Help him/her see ways of making his/her life better, even if he/she cannot fix “the problem.”
  • E-ncourage him/her to talk. Listen. Ask, “How are you feeling? What are you thinking?” You can even ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” (Just asking the question will not cause your friend to try it.)

Always remember this: even if you do all these things, your friend may still choose to die. You are not responsible for a suicidal person.


Warning Signs

People who want to die may not always say, “I’m thinking about suicide.” However, they often give “hints” or clues about what they are planning. Look for some of these warning signs:

  • depression
  • pulling away from others
  • talking less
  • complaints about physical problems
  • giving away prized possessions
  • Depressed Teen Girl FTR2 TS-93347472drastic changes in school and/or work
  • thinking and talking about death a lot
  • feeling guilty or ashamed
  • becoming more angry
  • threatening suicide, either seriously or as a joke
  • having attempted suicide before
  • not being aware of what is real and what is not
  • a sudden, unexplained happiness
  • loss of interest in things he or she used to like
  • not caring about personal appearance
  • doing dangerous things
  • beginning self-abuse
  • drug use (either beginning or increasing use)
  • change in appetite
  • change in sleep patterns

These signs can occur quickly or build up slowly. The more warning signs you see, the more quickly you need to take action.


What If I Feel Suicidal?

33 percent of high school students have considered suicide.

Maybe you’be been thinking about suicide—maybe wondering if your problems will ever go away or if you would be better off dead.

Jesus tells us that he came to earth to give us life, abundantly! Yet, sometimes this life can be very difficult. Even in the worst of times, however, God offers hope:

  • H-ears: God hears your cries—Psalm 118:5-6. Yell, talk, whisper, pray to God. God is listening!
  • O-vercome: God will provide a way out, without suicide—1 Corinthians 10:13. Find help from family, friends, professionals (ministers, teachers, or counselors). Try something new.
  • P-lan: God has a plan for your life—Philippians 1:6. God will provide what you need—trust God. God is bigger than your problems!
  • E-ver-present: God is with you, even when you feel like dying—Joshua 1:9. No matter what, as long as you live, God is there—right with you. Be strong!


devozine, Boy WritingDIG DEEPER

Read Romans 8:35, 37-39.

Paul, who wrote the book of Romans, made a list of things that make us feel bad. Jot down your own list of things that get you down. Try to include everything you can think of. Then read the passage from Romans again. Using a red marker, write “God Loves Me!” across your list. Take a look at your list from across the room. How does it feel to know that God loves you? How can God help you with these problems?

Jim Still-Pepper is a therapist in Zanesville, Ohio, who works with teenagers and their families.

—from devozine (January/February 1998). Copyright © 1997 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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