I'm worried about someone after seeing content they've shared on Instagram about suicide or self-injury. What can I do?
If your friend is in immediate danger, call local emergency services immediately. Don't wait.
It can be very hard to know what to say to someone who's told you that they're considering suicide, or who seems to be thinking about it but may not have told you directly.
Encouraging your friend to talk about what they're going through can be one of the most helpful things you can do for them. Being a good listener, and giving them the space they need to talk is important, as is following up with them regularly. You also can help by getting them to someone else they can trust, like a health care professional or another friend.
We've worked with suicide prevention experts to understand the best ways to support a person who's having suicidal thoughts. This list is informed by the work that Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention has done on suicide prevention.
Here's what you can do:
- Look for warning signs: Your friend might say things like “I want to disappear” or “I want to end this.” They may indicate that they're feeling hopeless and helpless, or suggest that they're a burden to others. They may have lost interest in the things that they usually do, or they may be acting impulsively.
- Empathize and listen: Give them your full attention. Try not to offer solutions or to convince them that things will get better; what they need most at this point is to feel heard. Help them to feel understood and don't judge them. Try asking open-ended questions that will get them talking about how they're feeling, like “I know you're going through a lot right now. Can we talk? I'd like to hear how you're feeling.”
- Ask about suicide: By asking clearly and directly, “Are you thinking about suicide?” you show that you care and that you've heard how much distress they're in. You aren't increasing the risk of someone killing themselves by asking directly. If they say, “Yes, I'm thinking about suicide,” don't panic. Tell them how much courage it took them to tell you that, and continue the conversation. Encouraging them to talk about what they're going through can reduce their feelings of isolation.
- Remove the danger: If they say that they're thinking about suicide, ask them if they have a plan. If they say yes, ask whether they have access to means, like drugs, a weapon or rope. It's important to do your best to get these items away from them, or to have other friends, or law enforcement, step in to help.
Help them get to the next level of care. Talking to your friend or family member is important, and you also might want to connect them with a counselor, health care professional or a helpline.
You may have seen a post on Instagram that worries you. If so, you can let us know about it by reporting the post and we may send some resources that we've developed with suicide prevention experts to the person. They won't know that you reported their post. In some cases, we may contact emergency services if they seem to be in immediate danger.
Caring for someone who is considering suicide can be very hard. Be sure to take care of yourself while you're going through this, and reach out to friends or health care professionals who can support you.