There is never a single reason someone attempts or dies by suicide. As you will read below, there are many factors that can create a sense of hopelessness and despair in anyone.
There are many things we can see, hear, and feel that might tell us that someone might be thinking about suicide. Becoming familiar with these warning signs is crucial to helping prevent a loss to suicide.
If someone talks about:
Wanting to kill themselves or die
Having no reason to live
Being a burden to others
Feeling hopeless or trapped
Not being able to deal with their pain
Watch for any significant changes in:
Sudden use or abuse of alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications
Looking for ways to end their lives (trying to purchase firearms, etc.)
Withdrawal from their favorite activities
Isolation from family and friends
Hygiene or appearance
Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions or sentimental items
When someone is considering suicide, they might express:
Agitation, anger, or irritability
Guilt or shame
Sudden relief or happiness
- Effective behavioral health care
- Connectedness (to friends, family, social groups, community centers, cultural groups, etc.)
- Life Skills (problem solving, coping, mindful excercises, etc.)
- Self-esteem or a sense of purpose (self-compassion, positive affirmations, identify own strengths and skills)
- Cultural, religious, or personal beliefs that instill hope and foster resiliency
Finding the Words
If you think someone might be thinking about suicide, research shows that asking them about suicide does not increase their risk, and it does not put the idea in their head. In fact, it helps. People who are struggling with thoughts of suicide want someone to ask. Here’s one way to approach the conversation:
- Gather resources and take the time to talk to them in private.
- Listen to their story.
- Tell them you care, and understand they’re in a lot of pain.
- Ask them directly if they’re thinking about suicide. “Are you thinking about suicide? Do you feel like killing yourself?”
- Encourage them to seek treatment, or to contact their doctor or therapist, if they have one.
- Help them understand they’re not alone.
- Avoid minimizing their problems, giving advice, arguing or debating about how they feel or their circumstances.
If they say they are considering suicide:
- Take them seriously, no matter what.
- Don’t leave them alone.
- Help them remove lethal means, if you feel safe to do so.
- Help connect them to resources, such as hotlines, text lines, mental health services, or a hospital emergency room.