Mental Health: Checking In with A Friend Could Save Their Life

Unhappy Male Teenage Student Sitting Outside On College Steps

Suicide and poor mental health are silently suffocating those around us. Recognizing the warning signs and risk factors of suicidal thoughts are crucial in order to save lives. Suicidal death is a silent killer. Early recognition is important, and creating a safe space to talk about mental health encourages people to have open conversations about when and how to check on those who may be at risk.


Spotting signs of suicidal thoughts can help an individual get the support they need. Behavioral indicators of possible suicidal tendencies can include anxiousness, agitation or recklessness, sleeping too little or too much, extreme mood swings, increased alcohol or drug use, isolating from family and friends, and giving away possessions. Verbal indicators can include a person talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless or having no purpose, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, being in unbearable pain, and calling people to say goodbye.

Those at risk may experience mental illness, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and personality disorders. Risk factors can include recent unemployment or financial loss, easy access to lethal means, history of trauma or abuse, lack of social support and a sense of isolation. The stigma around asking for help prevents most people from taking action in their own lives, which is why it is so important to recognize and intervene when risk factors and warning signs appear.


Appearing happy or successful could really be a mask for serious internal struggle. Poor mental health looks different for everyone. People may not think to check on their “strong” friend, but oftentimes this is the friend who needs to be checked on the most. Our social media is a highlight reel. What you see someone post on Instagram is not an actual indicator of how they are doing or what they have going on in their behind-the scenes life.


Creating a support system for your friends can be as simple as sending a text that asks how they are. You maybe unsure about checking on a friend because you fear overstepping. Someone who is feeling down may actually be relieved to discuss and process their thoughts.

To make a difference we must be willing and ready to listen to others without judgment and with compassion and empathy. It could be a single conversation that changes someone’s day or even someone’s life.

Claire Hendrickson, a former Jacksonville High School FOCUS President, serves as Miss University of North Alabama. She is the founder of Check on your friends before they check out, an initiative inspired by the knowledge she gained from the FOCUS program. Her mission is to encourage and empower people to check on others without fear of overstepping. You can follow her initiative on Instagram @checkonyourfriends_initiative and her journey to the Miss Alabama competition @missunapageant

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