How to Spot Suicide Warning Signs in a Bullied Friend

Know how to spot the signs and get help

depressed teen girl

Suicide is a tragic event that impacts a multitude of people, especially family and friends left to pick up the pieces. Researchers estimate that a suicide happens every 13 minutes in this country alone. And although bullying does not cause suicide, the stress of bullying and persistent victimization can increase a person’s risk for suicide.

Will Eliminating Bullying Prevent Suicide?

Most people assume that if you eliminate bullying in a person’s life, they will no longer be at risk for suicide.

But most mental health professionals argue that this approach is much too simplistic.

In fact, suicide is a complex issue that is impacted by more than just bullying. A person’s mental health, self-esteem and family-life issues also play a role. And failing to recognize the other contributing factors related to suicide is a serious mistake that puts bullied teens at risk.

If someone is experiencing chronic, ongoing bullying, friends and family should also be watching for signs of depression as well as the warning signs for suicide. Bullying definitely exacerbates these issues. But typically, bullying is not the only cause of suicide. Consequently, it is important to address the bullying as well as the other issues that are present.

What Motivates Teens to Attempt Suicide?

Many teens that attempt suicide may be feeling hopeless, abandoned, alone and rejected. They also may be feeling guilty or like they are a burden to others.

 Outsiders often misunderstand suicide and consider the act selfish. But in reality, people who attempt suicide often think they are doing their friends and family a favor by taking their life.

They also feel like they are out of options and the thought of continuing feels unbearable. Remember, talking about death or attempting suicide is a cry for help and should never be ignored.

What Are the Warning Signs for Suicide?

Although not everyone who attempts suicide displays warning signs, many do. So it is a good idea to become familiar with these red flags. Here is a list of warning signs that could indicate a person is at risk for suicide:

  • Appearing depressed or sad most of the time

  • Talking or writing about death or suicide

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Losing interest in outside activities
  • Displaying dramatic mood changes
  • Acting erratic or lacking impulse control
  • Experiencing a change in eating and sleeping habits
  • Acting recklessly and living dangerously
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Saying things like “You would be better off without me,” and “No one would miss me if I died”
  • Indicating that they feel trapped, out of options or at the bottom of a black hole
  • Abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Engaging in risky sexual behaviors
  • Showing little motivation
  • Performing poorly in school, especially if once a good student
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Putting affairs in order especially writing a will or letters to loved ones
  • Saying “good-bye” and “I love you” to family and friends excessively or at weird times
  • Expressing feelings of guilt, remorse or shame
  • Making amends with people
  • Displaying intense anger and rage

What Can You Do to Help?

If your friend exhibits any of the signs listed above, do not delay in telling a trusted adult. Your friend needs to be treated by a mental health professional so that she can begin to feel better. You also can encourage your friend to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  The number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

Remember, you should always take threats of suicide, signs of depression and conversations about dying seriously. Do not assume your friend is just trying to get attention. If she says or does something that doesn’t seem right, be sure to tell someone right away. You are not betraying her. Instead, you could be saving her life.

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