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11 Birthday Gifts to Get a Friend Who's Been Feeling Suicidal

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Many folks look forward to birthdays, but for others, birthdays can be a painful time of the year. Birthdays may be especially difficult for people who have attempted or contemplated suicide.

When your friend is struggling with wanting to live (or has previously struggled with suicidal thoughts), celebrating their life might feel like the last thing they want to do. However, despite what a suicidal friend or loved one might be feeling presently, sometimes birthdays can be great opportunities to remind them how much they mean to you.

But before doing anything for them, make sure that your loved one wouldn’t mind acknowledging their birthday. A great place to start is asking for permission with the question: “I know birthdays can be hard, but if you are OK with it, I’d like to give you a gift to show you how much I love you. Is this OK?”

If you’ve been given the green light to celebrate them, we have some ideas for you! We asked The Mighty community about birthday gifts they’d like to receive from a friend to feel loved and supported when they’re struggling with suicidal thoughts.

Here’s what they said:

1. Giving Them a Genuine Hug

“I’d really appreciate a hug. Not one of those one-second-and-gone hugs but those you can feel, coming from deep inside the other’s soul. A hug that puts you back on the ground, calms you down and lifts you up, rising the spirits of the whole universe inside you.” — Miri B.

“Hugs. Being held. Sometimes nothing fixes things like being physically held and knowing you’re safe.” — Amy S.

“A hug. When I am depressed, I like to keep to myself. I don’t accept help. The irony is that a hug helps me feel better, and on one’s birthday, people usually give gifts or do things out of nowhere. A hug makes me feel warm and safe. An unexpected hug makes me feel wanted and loved, especially on a special day.” — Vy N.

2. A Weighted Blanket

“A weighted blanket. I understand people cannot always be there for me, but having something that would make me feel like someone is holding me would be extremely helpful when I’m lonely and suicidal.” — Hali A.

3. Remembering Their Birthday

“I think a wonderful gift would be being remembered by my friends. My family is usually good about calling me, but it’s be nice to actually have a friend remember my birthday and say hey. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for, but I guess I’ll live if it doesn’t happen. You’d think with having Facebook, it’d be easy to remember, but it’s whatever.” — Kassidy A.

“I actually don’t even bother to celebrate. I am alone most of the time, my real friends are far and honestly just a call is enough. I don’t have my birthday on Facebook because I feel that the congrats are fake. Those who really care will remember. Sadly, I don’t get many calls.” — Skai R.

4. Planning the Entire Day

“Someone actually planning the entire day. Doesn’t mean big things. [Things] like making me a simple breakfast, getting my favorite coffee, decorating the house, a cake, putting thought into a gift. Just not making me feel alone. Birthdays are incredibly hard for me. I told my boyfriend this year I hate celebrating my birthday  because I feel I’m nothing special to celebrate and need him to plan and take charge for one day. He couldn’t even do that. I guess only depressed people understand the feeling.” — April B.

“Literally anything. I’ve had so many birthdays that were incredibly half-assed or simply had nobody try at all. I’d love if someone really thought of me and what they think I would like and did something around that. Just… something. I don’t want to be that girl who has to sit alone and cry on my birthday because nobody cares but me. I’ve done that far too much.” — Nina F.

“Just acknowledge my birthday in a way that makes me feel seen, appreciated and loved. Plan something that you know I’ll enjoy, and that will make me feel like I’m important to you. No grand gestures or expensive gifts necessary. For me, it’s literally the thought that counts.” — Lulu B.

5. Being There for Them

“Just the company of them being there on the day was enough, helped to keep me calmer and more grounded.” — Alex L.

“Just physically being there. You can still feel incredibly lonely in a crowded room, but there is nothing worse than on top of that feeling physically lonely and abandoned too, especially on something like birthdays, Christmas and any other occasion with an emphasis on being with others.” — Lexie B.

“This past birthday, my best friend came from out of state to spend my birthday with me and actually stayed the whole weekend after. Couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift.” — Hope G.

6. Spending Time Together

“Honestly, there isn’t really physical stuff that would be as helpful as spending time together. Like brunch and card games or a movie night. I was in a really dark place during my last birthday, didn’t feel like celebrating, didn’t feel like I deserved it, but there were a few scattered days where people I cared about spent time with me and talked about nothing important and that made me feel a little better.” — Risa R.

“I spend my birthdays usually with my best friend and we try and make a day trip somewhere so I can forget that I’m getting older because I cry every birthday I have and I’m only tuning 22… but birthdays are hard when you’re suicidal.. So hearing why you’re special to someone and why they love you in their life helps a lot to keep going when you feel like you have nothing more to live for.” — Cheyenne L.

7. Celebrating With a Cake

“A co-worker got me a tiny cake once…like 10 years ago. It was actually pretty nice since I’ve gone years without a single person even saying ‘happy birthday.’ Then again, I don’t broadcast my birthday.” — RevDr K.

“I just want to know someone cares enough to spend time with me. Maybe a cake or dinner. I don’t even care about gifts. My parents are always gone at that time. As I’ve gotten older, [fewer] people care about my birthday. It sucks.” — Jennifer G.

8. A Stuffed Animal

“I attempted suicide five days after my 16th birthday and five days after my 20th birthday. Birthdays are hard for me because I often feel alone. The best birthday gift a friend could get me to make me feel loved and supported would be either a stuffed animal or just to spend the day with me so I know I’m cared about and not alone.” — Annie H.

“A simple teddy bear to hug and I would remember the giver’s love every time I hugged the bear. I also yearn for a small box full of special goodies, a care package they call it. I don’t get such gifts like that though.” — Melissa A.

9. A Handwritten Note

“I would just like to spend the day with a close friend or two and have a good day with them. A handwritten letter would be great too, because if I get sad or need reassurance when they’re not there, I can read what they wrote. I don’t really care about gifts on my birthday, I care about being happy.” — Holly B.

10. A Jar of the Things You Love About Them

“A jar of little encouragement notes. I’ve had friends do this for me before and when I have a hard night, I read the notes. Even if they cannot physically be there every hard night, their words can be.” — Kimberly G.

“One of my best friends gave me a jar full of things she loves about me, memories and stuff we should do. It was the best gift I’ve ever received. It wasn’t an expensive gift, but it was sentimental and to me, that’s what matters.” — McKinzy H.

11. Something With Meaning

“Something small and thoughtful. A chocolate bar they know I like, a book they heard me mention or thought I would enjoy, their time, a homemade card or cake. A picture of a time we spent together. A handwritten note. Just something with meaning.” — Natalie C.

“Sharing a meal with me. Art they created. Helping me get more art supplies so I can create. Having an art session with me. Watching my favorite shows, or art/etc. videos, with me. Helping me get a book. Anything they know I need or would like. I am too afraid to ask for anything, because I am terrified of seeming selfish or greedy. I’m too afraid to ask for help of any kind to begin with.” — Bonnie S.

“A gift for my birthday that would make me feel supported would be something sentimental or self-care related. A little box with face masks and chocolate, maybe a photo of us or a letter with what I mean or why I matter at all. Then just spend the day together use the face masks, binge on junk food and watch DVDs all day. Make me forget I don’t want to be here and give me reasons to think, ‘I can’t do this again if I go.’ Give me even the smallest reason to think, ‘Maybe it’s not all bad and people do care.’” — Kaydence K.

For people who are suicidal, birthdays may be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a plethora of ways you can show them support and celebrate them that are as simple as spending time together. For additional resources of how to show support to your suicidal friends in need, check out some of the articles below:

Unsplash photo via Midas Hofstra

Originally published: March 15, 2019
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