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My friend is thinking about suicide

Talking openly about suicide can help save a life. Here’s everything you need to know to support a family member or friend who is thinking about ending their life.

Content Warning: this article contains information about mental health which may be distressing or triggering.

If someone you care about is in immediate danger, please call 000

Suicide warning signs

Ever wondered how you’d know if a friend was thinking about ”unaliving” themself? Here are some red flags/things to watch out for that might show you that they are struggling.

Things they might do (behavioural):

  • Withdrawing from family and friends, e.g. declining plans, sitting alone at lunch 
  • Not looking after themselves, e.g. not showering 
  • Being reckless or taking risks  
  • Changes in eating or sleeping  
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope  
  • Giving away belongings (this happens sometimes when people have decided to take their own life) 
  • Telling people or writing letters or notes to loved ones saying “goodbye” or thanking them for their support
  • Sudden happiness after being depressed (this could be a result of making a plan to end their life) 
  • Self-harm 
  • Posting stuff on their socials about death or suicide , e.g. “Thinking of kms”, “I want to unalive myself” 

Things they might say (verbal):

  • Being ambivalent (in two minds) or unsure about ending their life, e.g. "I don't know if I will harm myself or not"  
  • Hopelessness, e.g. "Nothing can help"  
  • Feeling like a burden, e.g. "Everyone would be better off if I was gone"  
  • Talking about death or wanting to die, e.g. “I wish I was dead”, “I don’t want to be here anymore” 

What to say and do if you're not sure if they’re suicidal

If you’re worried about a friend, it’s really important to share your concerns with them. Asking a person how they are feeling shows that you care and that you are worried. Here’s how to have that conversation.

Start by expressing your concerns (you can state what you’ve noticed) e.g. "I noticed you've been acting differently lately."

Next, be curious and ask open questions, e.g. "What's been going on?" Listen with empathy (just focus on trying to understand how they’re feeling rather than looking for a solution). 

If you’re still concerned they might be suicidal, be direct and actually ask, "Are you thinking about suicide?" (DW, you won't be ‘putting the idea’ in their head! If someone is feeling suicidal, asking them will not make them more suicidal.) If the answer is yes, get support for your friend as soon as possible by telling a trustworthy adult, teacher or counsellor. 

What to say and do if your friend says, “I’m suicidal”

It can be really scary when a friend tells you they’re thinking of suicide.

Teens are most likely to tell a friend that they’re suicidal (rather than an adult). And by telling you, they are showing you that they trust you and you are a true friend.

Here’s what to say and do next to support them.

Show concern – tell them you’re worried, concerned and care about them

Let them know you’re really happy they told you their true thoughts and feelings – and that you want to support them

Listen to understand (rather than to respond)

Talk about next steps and make a plan to tell a trusted adult or service together

What not to say or do when a friend is suicidal

There are also a few things to avoid as they can make things worse.

Firstly, don’t make assumptions (as they might be wrong). It's much better to be curious and ask questions.

Secondly, don’t make it about other people, (e.g. “How will your parents feel if you die?”) as this can make them feel worse (and they already feel really bad as it is). 

Don’t avoid talking about it or make a joke of it. This can make a suicidal person feel even worse or alone.

Last of all, don’t make promises you can't keep. In particular, don’t promise to keep their suicidal feeling a secret. Instead, work with them to figure out who you tell, and how you tell. It can help to word things like, “I’m really concerned for you and it’s important we let someone who can help know what’s going on. Let’s do it together!” 

There is a difference between safe secrets and unsafe secrets. For example, a safe secret is when a friend tells you who they like in your class – this secret will not have massive impacts on them and their safety. An unsafe secret is a secret about suicide, self-harm, and abuse or something that can be dangerous.

If your friend has an unsafe secret, it is important to tell someone and support them to tell someone. You (and they) don’t have to go through this alone! While it can feel really hard and like you are breaking their trust by telling someone, you are actually showing them that you care and you take what they are saying seriously and that you want to get them the support they need. 

Myths & facts about suicide

Here’s the stuff you need to know about suicide and staying safe.


Saying the word, ‘suicide’ puts the idea into people’s heads. 


Saying ‘suicide’ doesn’t ‘give people ideas’. We encourage people to use the word suicide because if people are scared to say the word, they can be scared to talk about it. And the best way to prevent suicide is to talk about it openly and honestly. It’s perfectly ok to ask someone you care about, ‘Are you suicidal?’ It might even save a life! 


If your friend/family asks you to keep their suicidal thoughts a secret, you should.


When people feel suicidal, they have changes in their brain that affect their ability to think clearly or make decisions. Being a good friend means knowing when to tell a trustworthy adult and giving your friend/family member what they need (i.e. professional support) rather than what they want (to keep it secret).


People who are suicidal are weak, selfish or attention-seeking.


People who are suicidal are often feeling intense, overwhelming negative emotions and distress. They need support, not judgement.

FAQS for when someone you care about is suicidal

Here are some of the most common questions you asked our counsellors about suicide.

You asked: Is it possible to stop someone killing themselves?

Our counsellors say: Suicide can be prevented. If someone you care about is at immediate risk of ending their life, please call 000.

You asked: When should I tell someone – and who should I tell?

Our counsellors say: If you’re worried someone you care about isn’t safe or they’re at risk of hurting themselves, or worse, then you absolutely need to tell someone. It’s best to tell a trustworthy adult i.e. a person trained in supporting people to stay safe. This could include Kids Helpline or a school counsellor. 

If you think your friend/family member is safe, you can still talk to a professional about it. If you contact Kids Helpline you can even remain anonymous. We can help you figure out what to do or say next. 

You asked: My friend/family member has a lot of issues with mental health and suicide and it’s starting to affect my mental health. I’m constantly worried about them. What should I do?

Our counsellors say: It’s understandable this is having an effect on you – and it’s a very tricky situation to be in. We’ve got some tips below to help you look after yourself.

Looking after yourself

Taking care of yourself is important as it helps you take care of others.

Let’s get real for a moment: being there for a suicidal friend can be tricky. Sometimes it can be demanding, interfere with your life, or make you feel worse. None of this makes you a bad friend! It makes you a human wwith natural feelings. We can want to help AND feel like it is impacting us at the same time. 

Here are some things that can help: 

  • Link your friend in with professional supports (especially 24/7 and crisis supports like Kids Helpline, headspace, Lifeline and the suicide callback service
  • Talk to a parent or a friend and get things off your chest 
  • Take your mind off it by doing things you love 
  • Talk to a counsellor and learn ways to self-care 
  • Put in some boundaries to help you balance supporting your friend with looking after yourself, if needed - if you keep getting messages at 2am from a friend saying, “I want to kms”, that can be really tricky to manage (and can affect your own mental health) - talk to a Kids Helpline counsellor if you need support with boundaries 
  • Be involved in your friend’s suicide safety plan (if they have one). Knowing who and what else is in there can help you to know the best way to support them 

Help is here if you need it

You’re not alone. Kids Helpline is always open. It’s free and confidential.

Contact us by calling 1800 55 1800 or starting a webchat. You can also join My Circle to talk to other people just like you.

This content was last reviewed 12/04/2024

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