“My friend has been posting some worrying stuff on Facebook. They keep talking about self-harm and suicide and I’m worried they might hurt themself. What can I do?”
It’s great that you noticed your friend may be struggling and want to help. You sound like a great friend.
It’s important to show them kindness and patience, even if what they post makes you uncomfortable. Feeling suicidal is quite common and people deal with their pain in different ways – some post about it on social media as a way of asking for help. Doing this is extremely brave. Talking about a problem, rather than keeping it to yourself, is extremely important.
Fortunately there are a lot of great organisations and resources to help both you and your friend. Samaritans have developed a guide for exactly this situation: it’s called ‘Help a Friend in Need’ and is short, easy-to-read and full of valuable advice.
The three most important things you can do are:
1) Talk to them
It doesn’t need to be about anything in particular – just have a chat with them like you normally would (they’re still the same person). Just knowing there are people they can chat to is a huge help.
If there is something they’re desperate to talk about they’ll find a way to bring it into the conversation. If this happens the best advice is just to listen. You’ll probably be tempted to give them some advice or tell a story about a similar experience you had, but it’s much more important to listen without judgement and let them get everything off their chest.
Be mindful of what you say (everything can seem negative when you’re feeling depressed, so sarcasm or joking banter may not come across) and only say what you mean. Don’t say “You can always contact me if you need to talk” if you’re not prepared to potentially have them calling you at 3am. This is why you should also:
2) Signpost them to professional services
You’re just one person. Even with the best intentions in the world, you can’t provide 24 hour support. But there are services who can, and they’re trained to do exactly that. Be kind to yourself and your friend by making sure they don’t rely solely on you, and have access to trained professionals.
Some great services in Wales are:-
Don’t worry if your friend is in another country. There are suicide support helplines all over the world.
People who are very depressed and/or suicidal often suffer from a distorted view of self-worth: they (mistakenly) think that they are a “waste of space” or that the world would be “better off without me”. This could lead to them thinking “I don’t deserve help”. Reassure your friend that they are valued and would not be wasting anybody’s time by calling/messaging a helpline.
If you don’t think that’s enough:
3) Report the post for suicidal content
(Don’t worry, they won’t get in trouble)
Facebook has a Suicide Prevention area. It provides advice on what to do in these situations, including showing you how to report suicidal content so they can reach out to your friend to help support them.
You can learn more about what happens with reported suicidal content here.
Don’t forget about yourself
Thank you for looking out for your friend. We’re always up for a chat so if you’d like to talk about helping your friends, and how that impacts you, remember that you can get in touch as well. Meic is free and open for everyone!
- Facebook Suicide Prevention
- Facebook adds new suicide prevention tool in the UK
- Samaritans: ‘Help a Friend in Need’
- #MHAW16: All My Strength – One Year On
- One In Five Of Us Feel Anxious A Lot Or All Of The Time
- #MyStory: Depression – Counselling Session 1
- #My Story: Road To Recovery
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