Suicide is a major public health problem that affects people of all backgrounds, ages and ethnicities. In 2017, about 45,000 Americans died by suicide – more than by car accidents or homicide – and more than 1 million attempted. While not every suicide or attempt can be prevented, most people thinking about suicide have a treatable mental illness and show signs of their distress. You can save lives by learning the warning signs and risk factors and knowing how to help if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide.
- Talking about feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden, feeling trapped or unbearable pain
- Threatening or planning suicide
- Giving away possessions
- Making out wills
- Despairing texts or posts
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Feelings of failure or shame
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Avoiding family and friends
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Risky behaviors
- Sudden improvement in mood
- Mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family history of suicide
- Exposure to another person’s suicide
- Loss of job, marriage, housing or health
- Prolonged stress from harassment, bullying, relationship problems or unemployment
- Access to lethal means such as firearms and drugs
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Childhood abuse, neglect or trauma
How to Help
If you believe a suicide is in progress, call 911.
Don’t leave a suicidal person alone. If you must leave, safely remove guns and other lethal means.
If you or someone you care about is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Life at 800-273-8255. Crisis counselors are available 24/7 to help.
If the person is in treatment with a mental health professional, encourage him or her to reach out.
If you aren’t sure what to do, start by asking questions. You will not push someone into suicide by asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings. Offering someone an opportunity to talk about suicidal feelings may reduce the risk of their acting on them.
How to talk to someone who may be suicidal:
- Tell them you are concerned and want to help
- Ask if they are thinking about suicide and have made any plans
- Take their thoughts and feelings seriously
- Listen with empathy and without judgment
- Don’t agree to keep their suicide plans secret
- If the suicidal person is a teen, tell a responsible adult
- Encourage the person to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you or someone you know is in a suicidal crisis, call 800-273-8255