Two men talking on beach

"Asking is hard, but wishing you had asked is a lot harder."

If you have a friend who may be thinking about suicide – then you need to talk to him about it. Your reaching out could be the difference in his recovery.

Firstly, know that it’s okay to talk about suicide with your friend. When framed in terms of recovery, treatment, and hope, talking about suicide is one of the most helpful things you can do to prevent it.

Here are some tips to get the conversation started and be the support your friend needs.

1. Know the signs:

Many guys fighting depression will have suicidal thoughts. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Talking of death or suicide:
    • Whether stated seriously or in a more casual joking manner, any talk of suicide needs to be taken seriously and followed-up on.
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness:
    • He could be saying something like “I don’t see the point anymore” or “No one would even notice if I’m gone.”
  • Putting affairs in order
  • Isolating from others, more than what’s usual for him
  • Seeking out lethal means

Learn more about each of these warning signs.

2. Voice your observations and ask about suicide:

Bringing up the subject of suicide won’t make things worse. The only way things get worse is when you don’t talk about it and ignore the problems a guy might be dealing with.

For some guys it’s easier to start a conversation about specific changes in a guy’s mood or behaviour that you’ve noticed rather than suggesting that he might be depressed or thinking about suicide. With other guys a direct approach is best.

Start with what you feel comfortable asking and go from there. Let him know he can be honest, and that you only want to help.

What you can say:

  • “I noticed you’ve been isolating yourself a lot recently. Has something been wearing you down?”
  • “Have you ever thought you might be dealing with depression, a lot of guys don’t talk about it but it’s pretty common?”
  • “What type of thoughts have you been having? Tell me about them – we’ve got time, I’m here to listen.”
  • “Do you think about or wish you could escape from life and be rid of all this?”
  • “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
  • “Do you want to end your life?”

3. Strongly encourage him to consult a doctor and get professional support:

Seeing a health professional is a critical step for any man dealing with suicidal thoughts. He can start with a visit to a family doctor, who can then refer him to other resources, like a counsellor for talk therapy, as needed.

What you can say:

  • “I hate to see you down like this. You know there’s no shame in seeing a doctor. I can give you a ride or come with, if that would make things easier. “
  • “You’ve got nothing to lose by talking to your doc. They can help you sort out what might be causing these thoughts and help you get a game plan in place to start feeling better.”
  • “Do you have a family doctor? If not, there’s a clinic I know where you could make an appointment.”

In the meantime, if he needs to talk to someone right away look up your local crisis/health line and give him the info.

If he is scared for his own safety because of his thoughts, don’t hesitate to call 911 (or your local emergency telephone number, 112 in most European nations, or 000 in Australia – or you can take him directly to the nearest hospital).

4. Create a safe environment and try to limit his alcohol or substance use:

With his permission, remove potentially dangerous objects (e.g., weapons) from his living area. If you’re roommates or partner’s this may even include medications – talk to him about holding onto them or keeping them someplace out of the way.

When a person is having suicidal thoughts they are in a tremendous amount of pain. He may turn to alcohol or other substances to numb it out, but these substances can make depression worse and dangerously lower his ability to fight suicidal thoughts. As much as is possible, try to limit his access to alcohol or other substances if he is struggling with thoughts of suicide.

5. Set up a game plan in case things get worse:

In case of a crisis, come up with a plan for what he will do – who he can call, which health lines should be contacted, and where the nearest hospital is. Create a list of contacts that includes friends, family, and professionals for him to contact if he ever needs to.

Make sure he is on board with the plan, understands it, and knows he won’t be seen as a burden for reaching out.

6. Follow-up and be there for him:

Suggesting to your friend to go see a doctor might not work the first time, if so be a steady source of support and helpful encouragement. When he does go, make sure to follow-up and ask him how you can further support him. If you don’t have time to meet in person, send him a message to see how he’s doing, or give him a quick call to let him know you’re thinking about him.

What you can say:

  • “Just know that you aren’t alone and I’m here whenever you need me.”
  • “I know it’s hard to believe now, but many guys have gotten better from depression and thinking about ending their lives.”
  • “I know how strong you are. You can do this. We can do this together.”

When depressed, guys tend to withdraw and isolate themselves. Regularly check-in and invite him to contact you anytime to voice how he is feeling.

7. Set limits:

If things become overwhelming and you need a break, be honest. Let him know what’s going on and work toward a more sustainable level of support.

If he gets frustrated or upset, don’t take it personally. Remember depression affects a guy’s mood, and for some that means being more irritable, angry, or negative than usual. Be patient. If he knows that he has the support of others and can stick to his treatment, he will get better.

You can also help him connect with other friends and family members who can also lend a hand.

8. Let him know about HeadsUpGuys:

Take a look through our site and find some things you think may connect with him. Send him a link or walk through the site together. We’re here to help him and you.

Reassure him that, as painful as things may feel right now, depression is treatable.

Next Steps: