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5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain

Courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health

  1. Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk individuals  if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means  can make a difference.
  3. Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase  suicidal thoughts.
  4. Help them connect: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number in your phone so it’s there when you need it: 1-800-8255 (TALK). You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. Stay Connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown  the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.


What causes suicide?

Suicide is a complex issue and is different in every case. There is no one cause, but there are risk factors that may contribute to thoughts of suicide:

  • Untreated mental illness. Many who contemplate suicide suffer from mental illnesses or disorders that have not been treated, which can be due to the stigma associated with mental illnesses, lack of resources, or both.
  • Age. Although suicide occurs within all age groups, young people and the elderly are at an increased risk.
  • Family history. Like many mental illnesses, the risk of suicide is much higher if a relative or friend has gone through the same thing.
  • Physical disorders or illness or experiencing a traumatic event. Serious health problems or traumatic experiences may contribute to the development of depression or suicidal thoughts.
  • Having previously attempted suicide. About a third of people who attempt suicide try again within a year, and 80% of those who die from suicide have had a previous attempt. Attempts are often a cry for help and should be taken very seriously.
  • Gender. While women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to die from suicide.

How can suicide be prevented?

  • Access to health care. There is evidence that adequate access to health care for both mental and physical illnesses can affect suicide rates.
  • Having a strong support system. Supportive friends and family members can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and hopelessness as well as provide people to turn to in times of need.
  • A healthy lifestyle.
    • Exercising,
    • Getting enough sleep,
    •  & maintaining a healthy diet are just a few ways to improve mood and maintain balance.
  • Effective coping skills. Dealing with suicidal thoughts can be frightening and overwhelming, but finding ways to overcome these feelings in a healthy way is the first step to getting better.
  • Other prevention methods include:
    • Early recognition and treatment for suicidal thoughts or behaviors
    • Access to hotlines and crisis centers
    • Continuing support for those who have survived a suicide attempt

What are the warning signs for suicide?

If you believe someone may be having thoughts of suicide, it is important to recognize the warning signs. Even though a person may not show all of the signs, they should still be taken very seriously. The National Institute for Mental Health lists the warning signs for suicide as:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped like there's no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

Suicide Facts & Statistics

  • More than 1,000,000 people die from suicide every year. That is 1.9 deaths every 60 seconds.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with over 30,000 suicides per year.
  • Even more attempt suicide, and it is estimated that there are 25 attempts for every completed suicide.

Suicide is devastating. It not only affects the person, but also their friends, family, and everyone around them. Some believe that suicide is selfish, but it is often an act of desperation. Those who consider suicide feel like they have no other options or choices and think that suicide is the only solution. They often feel hopeless and are doubtful that things will get better for them. However, there is hope. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  Call 24/7 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 24/7 1-800-273-8255

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