Coping with Mental Health: Suicide Prevention

If you or someone you know is in danger, please call 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also use the Lifeline online chat.1

Suicide facts

Suicide is among the leading causes of deaths in the United States. For people in the U.S. aged 10 to 34, suicide is the second-most-common cause of death.2

There are different terms used when talking about suicide:

  • Suicide is death caused by self injury with the intent to die as a result of the action.
  • A suicide attempt is also caused by self injury, but is not fatal. An attempt may or may not result in injury.
  • Suicidal ideation includes thoughts of suicide.

Risk factors

A combination of factors may lead to someone considering suicide. Known risk factors for suicide may include:3

  • A family history of suicide
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Legal problems
  • Job problems or loss
  • Access to means, such as drugs or guns
  • A chronic illness or medical condition
  • Drug or alcohol use disorder
  • Mental illness, such as depression
  • Bullying
  • A personal history of abuse or trauma
  • Chronic stress
  • Recent loss

Suicide is an important and often neglected subject for people with chronic illness. Research shows that rates of mental illness for those with a chronic illness or medical condition are greater than those without chronic illness. If you or someone you know has a chronic health condition, knowing the warning signs is valuable.4

Warning signs

According to recent studies, nearly 5 percent of American adults over the age of 18 have had suicidal thoughts. Some warning signs of suicide include:2,5,6

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Increase in risk taking, impulsive, or reckless behavior
  • Threats or comments about wanting to die
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Severe mood swings
  • Increase or new drug use
  • Putting affairs in order
  • Giving away possessions
  • Efforts to find needed instruments like toxins, weapons, or firearms
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • A switch from highly emotional moods to calm (this could suggest the person is no longer worried about their struggles due to a suicide plan)

What can be done to help

If you are worried about a loved one or friend, the best thing you can do for them is listen. First, have an open conversation:7

  • Talk in private.
  • Listen.
  • Tell them that you care.
  • Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide.

If your friend or loved one tells you they are thinking about suicide:7

  • Take it seriously
  • Stay with them
  • Remove any means, like guns or drugs
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Drive or escort them to the emergency room or dial 9-1-1

Resources

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7) or use the online chat.1

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline: Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) (M-F, 10 AM – 6 PM EST), email at info@nami.org, or text “NAMI” to 741-741 for 24/7 crisis support via text message.8

For Veterans: Call 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7), text 838-255, or use the online chat.9

LGBTQ affirming services: Call 1-866-488-7386 (24/7), text “Start” to 678-678 (24/7), or chat online.10

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Written by: Katie Murphy | Last reviewed: March 2021