Recognizing warning signs of suicidal behavior is the first step in prevention. The following actions may indicate that someone is thinking about suicide.
- Talking about: feeling hopeless or trapped, death or wanting to die, ways to commit suicide, having great guilt or shame, feeling unbearable pain (physically or emotionally), or being a burden to others
- Acting anxious, enraged, agitated or withdrawn
- Giving away important possessions or making a will
- Suddenly using excessive alcohol/drugs or taking unnecessary risks like excessive speeding
- Changing eating or sleeping habits
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
If there is concern that someone may be contemplating suicide, ask them in a discreet and supportive way. Depression can prevent people from opening up. So, if you really believe something is wrong, keep asking and tell them about the changes that you have noticed in them. While it isn’t always easy, asking if an at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can save their life.
If they admit that they are suicidal, be there for them. Listen carefully about what they are thinking and feeling. Acknowledging and talking about suicide can actually reduce suicidal thoughts. Refer them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and the Crisis Text Line’s number: 741741 for further support. Getting them to a trained professional is important, as they may need to be hospitalized until the crisis has passed.
If you can, consider removing harmful objects from their home that could be used for suicide, such as knives, firearms, ropes, pills and household cleaners containing dangerous chemicals. If the person takes a prescription that could be used for an overdose, encourage them to have someone else safeguard it.
Once someone has made it through a suicide crisis, they will still need ongoing support. Meeting regularly with a therapist is highly advised to work through the issues that brought them to considering suicide. This can help them find coping strategies in case thoughts of suicide begin to emerge again. Honoring milestones, like making it through another week or month is a great way to move forward with healing.
Additionally, after you have helped someone through a suicide crisis, staying in touch with them can make a big difference. Suicide death rates go down when someone regularly follows up with the at-risk person.
Even though it can be frightening to help someone through a suicide crisis, it is important to take action. Most suicides can be prevented if the warning signs are recognized soon enough. By reaching out and getting them the support they need before it’s too late, you can help to save a life.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
1.800.273.8255 (Deaf and Hard of Hearing)
Crisis Text Line:
Text “Hello” to 741741