Imagine this scenario. Your friend has been a little down lately, but you figure everyone has those days and you dismiss it. First, they stopped talking to you as frequently. You used to talk so much to the point where the teacher would separate you two by the end of class. Now, you walk in and you’re no longer greeted with the same warm, friendly wave and smile that you used to see every day. Instead, your friend just sits there; slumped over her desk with her head down. But you brush it off. It’s just another bad day or something, you tell yourself. You text them, “Are you okay?” They take hours to respond, and all they say is, “I’m fine.”
You think you’ve done something wrong. Regardless, you figure it would be best to leave them alone. So, you stop texting them. You stop asking if they’re all right, and you even move seats in class. You never see them in the hallways anymore, or at all for that matter. Then one morning, you’re sitting in your first period; getting ready to hear the morning announcements just like every other day. The chime indicating they were about to start comes on, but instead of the student that usually does the announcements, your principal’s voice comes through the speakers. He’s sorry to announce this, he says. A student has passed away, he says. Your friend’s name rings through the speakers like a never-ending chorus, and you learn later that she killed herself.
Over the last two decades, suicide in the United States by all age groups has sharply increased by 25%, leading it to now claim more lives than car accidents. Each year, more than 41,000 people commit suicide, 8,000 of which are teenagers and young adults. This number should never be as high as it is. There are ways to prevent this, including knowing the most common warning signs:
Comments about killing themselves
Increased alcohol or drug use
Easily getting aggressive or agitated
Social withdrawal from friends or family
Dramatic mood swings
Impulsive or reckless behavior
Suicide may seem like the only way out when people are at their lowest, but it’s not. Seeking out help doesn’t mean you’re weak, in fact it’s praised. Mental health professionals are trained to help people who may have thoughts of suicide. They can help you understand your feelings, as well as guide you into mental health improvement and wellness. Even just talking to a trusted adult or friend can help a lot.
If you notice someone has been acting different or just not acting themselves, ask them to speak to you. Don’t ignore the signs or dismiss them as “just a bad day.” There are so many things you can do to help, and so many hotlines you can call if you find yourself or a friend feeling this way or having thoughts of suicide. There are even texting hotlines if you don’t feel comfortable speaking on the phone.
If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, or you want to hurt yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK. If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone about this, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.