How I helped my suicidal friend

Looking after a suicidal friend is not something they teach you about at school.

True Stories

man looking sad

Suicidal thoughts can be intensely frightening.

Ben and I hadn’t been friends for very long really, less than a year, but we’ve always been close. We first started speaking in lessons and quickly I realised I really liked him, as a friend and more. At one point he liked me too, and we did have a kind-of relationship but it never really worked out. After that, our friendship grew to the point where we told each other almost everything. He means everything to me and I couldn’t live without him.

When I first found out my friend Ben was feeling suicidal I didn’t know what to do. Obviously I wanted to support him and make him feel better, but I had no idea how. Although he trusted me enough to tell me how he was feeling, he didn’t trust me with most of the reasons why. At the time it was kind of frustrating that he wouldn’t tell me, but looking back I can fully understand why.

The pressure of being the only one to know

When he told me, he made me promise not to tell anyone, a promise which I haven’t been able to stick to, but for the first few months I did. I was the only person he’d told, so I convinced myself that if anything happened to him it would be my fault. He tried to make me see that it was his life and that I shouldn’t blame myself. I’m grateful to him for that, but it didn’t really help at the time.

I could always tell something was up, but never when he was feeling really bad. I guess it must have been a nightmare for him because I asked so often if he was OK. I had to know. If he hadn’t told me, then he hadn’t told anyone, and if he hadn’t told anyone then anything could happen.

If we had fall outs over stupid things then I’d apologise constantly, because although he knew he could always talk to me, I knew he wouldn’t come to me if we weren’t talking. Luckily these never lasted more than a few days, but I worried constantly until we’d made up. I tried to get him to tell someone else, but it was his friends and family causing the problems. After a month or two though, once he’d started to trust me a bit more, he started texting me when he felt bad, so I knew when to help him.

Supporting him via text

He’d text me, usually quite late at night, just saying he felt bad again. That’s all it took to send me into full panic mode, but I never let on to him quite how scared I was. Whatever I’d say to him it didn’t seem to help. I never tried to ask why he was feeling so low, I just tried to focus on the positives, and try and at least get him to give it another day. He’d often say there were no positives and at times I got so close to breaking down myself. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that if I went, he’d go too, and he didn’t deserve that.

I spent most of the time just reassuring him that I loved him, that I was always there for him, that I didn’t want to lose him, and that all his friends felt the same way. I wasn’t sure if it made a difference but I reckon long term it did. Only being able to speak to him by text was hard but there was no other way to speak to him late at night. Quite often he’d stop replying, and although I knew he was probably fine, I couldn’t stop thinking that he’d actually committed suicide. There were times where I sent 4 or 5 texts, getting more and more stressed before he’d reply. I did think about ringing him, and trying to comfort him that way, but I was usually so scared that I was in tears, and that wouldn’t have helped him in the slightest.

I wish I could have been with him really, to just be able to hold him and tell him it would be OK, and if I really had to, then physically stop him from doing anything. I felt helpless by text, and like what I was saying wasn’t sincere. It’s hard to show how much someone means to you by text.

Looking back on it

I wish I’d have spoken to him at school or something, and tried to get him to tell me what was wrong when he wasn’t feeling so bad. If he’d have told someone else too it would have been so much easier on me. I know what it’s like to feel that bad though, and how hard it is to tell people, especially the ones who care about you. I don’t blame him at all for that.

If I had to say something to someone in my position, it would be to try and get them to talk about it, but only when they’re not feeling really bad. Let them know that you love them and that it will get better, and if you’re really worried then don’t be afraid to act. Luckily it never got that bad with Ben, and he’s doing a lot better now.

Picture posed by model.

Next Steps

  • SANE offer support and information to people affected by mental illness. 0300 304 7000
  • If you have questions about self-harm you can use selfharmUK's Ask a question service. Or look at the questions that have already been answered.
  • Papyrus supports young people who are feeling suicidal - you can call, email or text them. Call on 0800 068 41 41.
  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By clutchingatstraws

Updated on 29-Sep-2015