What to do when someone threatens suicide

pinkflower61 asks: There is a girl in my class who mostly stays alone and is very sensitive. Once I talked to her – she appeared to be sad and she started talking about how she hates her life and thinks of suicide. I don’t know what to do about her – or should I do nothing because it is something usual for teens?

Hi pinkflower61 –



You’re right that it’s very common for teenagers to think about hurting or even killing themselves, without ever doing it.  But it’s also way too common that teens do hurt themselves, or at least try to.


The fact that you talked with this girl just shows that you’re great.  So many kids ignore the quiet loners.  You may well be the best friend she has in the school, even though you barely know her.  So the single best thing you can do to help her through this time is… just chat with her again.  Just be a friend.  I don’t mean that you have to make her your total responsibility, but what if you had lunch with her one day?  What if you introduced her to your other friends?  What if you even invited her to go out with some other kids some night?  This could truly change her life.


Or maybe you’re a bit shy and withdrawn yourself.  Well, in that case, there’s even a better chance for you to become friends.  I’m guessing, from the sensitivity of your letter, that you know a thing or two about feeling sad and hopeless too.  So you can be the best thing that ever happened to her.


Do you share any interests?  Maybe you like some of the same bands, or movies or TV shows?  Anything you two can talk about is just going to make her life better.


Now most likely, that’ll be enough.  But if you find that it’s not, if she remains feeling this down and miserable, it could be awesome for you to talk with her about it.


Here’s a letter I wrote to someone who was talking this same way.  Maybe there’s some stuff here that could help you out:


There’s a lot I could say here, but what you’re saying is so important and frightening, I want to cut straight to one simple issue: Safety.


First: I know you feel very alone.  But I can promise you, with absolutely no question: you are not.  Almost every person in the world has felt the way you do.   Handsome has, and every great writer and artist and actor has.  In fact, it’s because they’ve been right where you have that they’re able to do work that people relate to.  Because everyone else has felt just this.


Second:  People DO care!  I don’t know who you are or where you live, but I promise you, there are people in your life who care a lot about you. Maybe they haven’t shown it lately, maybe they’ve been too busy or too concerned about other things.  But they care.  I can’t tell you how many times Handsome’s left me at home for a long time, and I truly felt he didn’t care at all.  But when he would then come back, he was always so happy to see me that I’d realize he really cared a lot.  (Then he’d leave again, I’d feel the same way, and…  well, here’s why I can relate to your feelings!).


Third:  I can’t tell from your letter just how serious you are about possibly hurting yourself.  So I just have to say this, in case:  I can’t do anything to help you from here.  You have to reach out to someone.  If you’re not in great danger today, I suggest finding a therapist, someone professionally trained to talk about just these feelings.  If you have a religion, a leader in your place of worship can almost certainly help you.  If I could, I’d help you find such a person, but I can’t: I’m only a dog!  And most important, if you’re really feeling like you might do some harm to yourself, please call the police or a hospital immediately, or at least a very trusted friend who can make that call for you:  You Are Worth Everything – remember that!


Fourth, and really the most important thing I can give you, is a quote from an old movie.  An old man whose career as a clown is flopping finds a beautiful young ballerina who’s just tried to end her life.

When he wakes her, she complains that she doesn’t want to live because her life has no meaning: “The utter futility of everything!  I see it even in flowers, hear it in music.  All life aimless, without meaning.”  And he responds: “What do you want a meaning for?  Life is a desire, not a meaning.  Desire is the theme of all life!  It’s what makes a rose want to be a rose, and want to grow like that.  And a rock want to contain itself, and remain like that.”


You see, he’s right.  What you’re suffering from right now is that you’re not able to enjoy feeling desire.  But that joy will come back, I promise.  Maybe you need to talk to someone, or perhaps even get some special medicine, to help you find it again, but it will return.  And when it does, I swear, life will become a glorious adventure again, full of excitement and unending possibilities.



Please let me know anything I can do to help.  But truly, pinkflower61, I think you have already done the single greatest thing that could happen to this girl: you’ve shown her that she has reason to hope for kindness and friendliness from the people around her.  You may have already saved her life.


Thanks for being great, and for giving me yet another reason to feel really proud of my pack!







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