Suicide Prevention: Hope and Healing
If you are suicidal right now, please,
click here for immediate help.
Or if you want to know how to help someone who is suicidal,
Skip to How Can I Help a Suicidal Person?
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Who This Page is For
Many different types of people are touched by suicide, and it can affect anyone. If you read the link at the top of this page, you'll note that this is not the page to read if you're suicidal right now. That page would be
So why did I write two separate pages about such a depressing topic? And who is this page for?This website is all about awareness and helping people be proactive about their mental health. One page about suicide prevention helps us understand suicide, myths about it, how we as a society can work to prevent it and who is at greater risk. However,
a person who is in immediate danger of harming him/herself or someone else needs this page, which helps people get help in the moment when they are in crisis without having to search through a bunch of extra information. People in emotional distress or mental health crisis are dealing with more emotional stress than available coping skills, so that's what I have done, and why I have linked to this crisis resources page three times on this same webpage. That way, if at any point, someone is triggered, he or she can immediately get to the crisis resources page. So let's get started.
about my family and how they don't really understand my medical and mental health conditions. One time, a member of my family said to me, "Suicide is a cowardly way out." and I remember thinking, "It's a good thing he/she doesn't know how many times I have tried." That is a common response to suicide attempts or to those who have killed themselves. I have attempted four times; it would have been many more, except I took steps to stop that. I did two things:
So why would anyone really want to commit suicide. Most often, it's a way to deal with emotional pain when a person doesn't have enough available coping skills. Common thoughts that go through a suicidal person's mind are these:
- I was hospitalized in the psychiatric unit when I felt in danger of hurting or killing myself and
- I gave my medications to assisted living staff so I couldn't use them to harm myself
What's the difference between self-injury and suicide? Self-injurious behavior is usually not a way to commit suicide, but sometimes the person who engages in SIB isn't aware of how serious the injuries are (when he or she is dossociating), and it can lead to death. When a person self-injures, it's a way to stay alive, and it's because someone lacks healthy coping skills. However, there are higher rates of later suicides among people who do self-injure.
- I wouldn't be a burden anymore
- Noone would really care if I died
- Everyone would be better off without me.
major physical illnesses
- previous suicide attempts
- family history of suicide
- job or financial loss
See other factors associated with suicide
This article also details warning signs.
There are several groups at greater risk of attempting suicide.
- Those with certain mental health disorders:
schizophrenia, some personality disorders, and anxiety disorders.
- substance abuse disorders
- history of trauma or abuse
- those who have previously attempted suicide or who have a family history of suicide
- Youth, especially those without strong family and peer supports (those who are being bullied)
- disaster survivors
- Native Americans
- Those who have lost someone to suicide
- the LGBTQ+ community
Myths About Suicide
Myths about suicide abound. "That's the most sselfish thing you could think of or do." This is what a friend said to me on the day I got out of the
psychiatric hospital. That was not the best time--well, there is never a right time to say that! People often think that suicide is a selfish action. I can't overstate it: Suicide isn't about wanting to die; it's about wanting the pain to end. It's about having more pain than available coping skills. People who attempt or kill themselves truly believe that the world would be a better place without them. Here are some common myths about suicide:
Here is a great page
with detailed myths about youth and adult suicide. It's worth a read!
- Asking someone about suicide will prompt him/her to attempt it. This is simply not true! People who attempt suicide or kill themselves contemplate it and plan for weeks or sometimes even months. In most cases, it's not an impulsive decision, and asking someone about it will not "give" him or her the idea. In fact, asking in a very direct, nonjudgmental, way will open up a dialog for sharing.
- Depression causes all suicides. As stated above, there are many causes of suicides. Depression is just one cause, and a small number of people who are depressed go on to commit suicide. However, it is one risk factor. Many mental health disorders, as well as past attempts, family history of suicide, history of trauma or abuse and other factors contribute to suicidality
- We can not really prevent suicide. Actually, we can see warning signs and ask direct questions.
Suicide Warning Signs
So what do you look for as indications of suicidality? First, never assume that a person's comments about suicide are just for attention. They are not; they are an attempt to reach out for help! Sometimes, people give nonverbal clues that they are suicidal. I remember posting something on Facebook one time when I was suicidal. Thank God people took me seriously. People who die by suicide are likely to have attempted at least once before. In my case, it's four previous attempts. So what are the warning signs?
More warning signs are mentioned on this page.
For someone who is at extremely high risk, meaning he or she has told you that he/she is suicidal, has a plan, a time, a place, a method available, etc:
- Appearing depressed or sad most of the time
- Talking or writing about death or suicide
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Feeling trapped -- like there is no way out of a situation
- Experiencing dramatic mood changes
- Exhibiting a change in personality
- Acting impulsively
- Losing interest in most activities
- Giving away prized possessions
- Writing a will
- Activing impulsively
- Feeling excessive guilt or shame
- Acting wrecklessly
While you are waiting for help to arrive, remember these points to help the person along:
- Call 911 immediately to summon first responders.
- As an alternative, you can call 1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-273-TALK
- Stay with the person until help arrives or until you can get him or her to the emergency room or psychiatric hospital
- Remember that trained mental health professionals are required to help treat the person who is at high risk of suicide. If you are unsure of the risk, always err on the side of caution and call for assistance.
Suicid.org: How to Help a Suicidal Person
- Listen attentively to everything that the person has to say. Let the person talk as much as he or she wants to. Listen closely so that you can be as supportive as possible, and learn as much as possible about what is causing the suicidal feelings.
- Comfort the person with words of encouragement. Use common sense to offer words of support. Remember that intense emotional pain can be overwhelming, so be as gentle and caring as possible. There is no script to use in situations like these, because each person and each situation is different. Listen carefully, and offer encouraging words when appropriate.
- Let the person know that you are deeply concerned. Tell the person that you are concerned, and show them that you are concerned. A suicidal person is highly vulnerable and needs to feel that concern.
- If the person is at a high risk of suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Do not leave a critically suicidal person alone for even a second. Only after you get professional help for the person can you consider leaving him or her.
- Talk openly about suicide.
Ask the person, "Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?"
If the answer is yes, ask, "Have you thought about how you would do it?"
If the answer is yes, ask, "Do you have what you need to do it?"
If the answer is yes, ask, "Have you thought about when you would do it?"
Here are those four important questions in abbreviated form:
You need to know as much as possible about what is going on in the person's mind. The more planning that someone has put into a suicide, the greater the risk. If the person has a method and a time in mind, the risk is extremely high and you cannot hesitate to call 911 and ensure that professional treatment is given.
- 3.Have what you need?
- If the person talks about using a firearm that he or she owns for suicide, call the police so they may remove the firearm(s). Firearms are used in the majority of suicides, and those who use a firearm usually do not survive. It is thus an emergency that needs to be handled by the police immediately.
- Don't be judgmental. Do not invalidate anything that the person says or feels. The person is probably suffering from a chemical imbalance in the brain, and thus could not possibly think clearly. Be supportive and caring, not judgmental, but get help immediately.
- Be careful of the statements that you make. You do not want to make the person feel any worse than he or she already does. Again, the person is probably suffering from a chemical imbalance in the brain and is thus extremely sensitive.
- Listen, listen, listen. Be gentle, kind, and understanding. Again, allow the person to talk as much as he or she wants. Always listen very attentively, and encourage him or her to talk more. Be as gentle, kind, and understanding as possible.
- Let the person express emotion in the way that he or she wants. Allow the person to cry, yell, swear and do what is necessary to release the emotion. However, do not allow the person to become violent or harm himself or herself.
- Again, use the home page of Suicide.org to help the person. Make a copy of it and give it to him or her. This will not only help the person now, but also in the future when he or she needs help. You can also make copies of any of the pages of the Suicide.org site that you think will help the person, and give them to him or her. (There is no charge for distributing copies of pages of this site in print media, not on the Internet, for noncommercial, nonprofit use.)
After the person has received help and is no longer critically suicidal, help the person make an appointment with a medical doctor and a therapist. If the person has not yet seen a medical doctor or a therapist, help him or her make the appointments. Suicidal feelings need to be dealt with on a professional level. Only trained professions should assume the care for the person. This is very important. Do not try to help the person by yourself. Make sure that the person is seen by a medical doctor and a therapist.
- Before you leave the person, make sure that he or she has received professional help from qualified mental health professionals or that the risk of suicide has dissipated. You cannot leave the person until the risk of suicide is gone or he or she is in treatment. A person who is suicidal is at risk of suicide at any juncture. Ensure that all appropriate actions are taken to help the person before you leave.
- When in doubt about what to do, call 911 immediately. Be safe. A suicidal person needs professional help. Period. If you are not sure what to do, it is certainly better to err on the side of caution and get professional assistance immediately. Again, if you are not sure what to do, call 911.
- If someone tells you that you need to keep his or her suicidal intentions a secret, then you never can keep that "secret." Under no circumstances can you keep a "secret" that could cause someone's death. You are not violating a privileged communication; you are taking the steps necessary to prevent a suicide. That is an expression of love, caring, and deep concern, and is the only ethical choice in a situation as serious as this.
- Follow up with the person on a regular basis to make sure that he or she is doing okay. Suicidal feelings can come and go, so follow up with the person to see how he or she is. It is very important to show continued concern. If the person becomes suicidal again, take immediate action to help him or her.