Know the Warning Signs of Suicide and Get Help

Would you be able to tell if someone you cared about was at risk for suicide?

Water and a pier, Suicide prevention and awareness

Taking one's own life is the 10th leading cause of death nationwide. Most people who kill themselves are deeply conflicted about ending their lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide. But they're in so much emotional pain they see no other option.

Suicide doesn't discriminate. People of all ages—from children to seniors—and all ethnic backgrounds are at risk. And while men are more likely to die from suicide, women are more likely to attempt it.

What to watch for

It's important to know the warning signs for suicide and to take them seriously, especially when someone talks about suicide. It's a myth that most people who talk about suicide won't do it. Nearly everyone who attempts it gives a verbal cue—for example, by saying "If I see you again, "I'd be better off dead," or "There's no way out."

There are other warning signs to take seriously too. Get help if someone:

  • Seeks out guns, pills, knives, or anything else that could be used for suicide
  • Is obsessed with death—for example, they might write poems about it
  • Appears hopeless or feels trapped
  • Expresses self-loathing or shame
  • Is self-destructive or reckless
  • Withdraws from family and friends
  • Has dramatic mood changes
  • Says goodbye as though they won't be seen again
  • Gets their affairs in order—for example, makes a will

Be aware that certain people are more vulnerable to suicide than others. Risk factors include:

  • Mental health problems such as depression, alcoholism, or drug abuse
  • Past suicide attempts or a family history of suicide or physical or sexual abuse

Related: Together We Can Really Prevent Suicide

Take action

If there's any chance you know someone who's considering suicide, get them to the nearest emergency department or call 911. Don't leave them alone, and remove any weapons or potentially deadly objects like pills.

If you’re in a crisis…

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours/day: 800-273-TALK (8255)

Smart Phone App

24 hours/day: Download APP at the Apple Store or Download at Google  Real-time crisis intervention and a confidential tip line; responds to all chats, texts, and calls

The Alex Project

24 hours/day: Text LISTEN to 741741 Give all youth in crisis the chance to reach life-saving help via texting regardless of where they live

The Trevor Project

24 hours/day: 866-488-7386

Free 24-hour services geared toward LGBTQ teens in crisis 

Related: Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ Youth


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The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

References: American Association of Suicidology; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;; National Institute of Mental Health

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