Helping a friend in crisis

If you’ve got a friend who’s in distress or serious crisis – possibly even considering suicide – consider the acronym COPE: be Caring, Optimistic, Practical – and seek an Expert.

  • Be Caring
    Never ignore or take a suggestion of self-harm lightly.  Research shows most people who attempt suicide normally tell someone else they’re thinking about it first.  Ask them, and don’t be afraid that talking about the threat will put ideas into the person’s mind.  It’s more likely they’ll appreciate being taken seriously.
  • Be Optimistic
    Most human problems can be solved with time, care and expert help no matter how hopeless they might seem.  Don’t give up hope just because your friend has temporarily lost theirs – their problem can be overcome.  At the same time, however, don’t let your optimism lead you to dismiss or make light of the person’s concerns.
  • Be Practical
    If a friend says they’re thinking about self-harm, do something about it.  Involve other people, including the emergency services if you need to.  Be especially vigilant if someone is intoxicated, under the influence of drugs, if they have made a suicide attempt in the past, or if they have a clearly formulated plan.  Don’t, however, get drawn into making unrealistic promises of long-term support that you’re unlikely to be able to keep.
  • Seek an Expert
    If the person in distress refuses to get help once the immediate crisis is over, consider contacting someone yourself in order to plan what steps can be taken to get support for yourself and your friend.