Suicide is a Medical Emergency, not a crime. Most people who consider taking their own life don’t really want to end their life as much as they want to end their pain.
If you think someone you know might be considering taking their own life, remember, it’s OK to ask. In fact, it’s the most responsible action you can take.
Psychologists tell us phrases such as “Are you OK?” or “You seem really down today. Tell me what’s going on” or “Tell me how you’re feeling right now” are door-openers to conversation. (Also see 5 Action Steps below). You must also ask directly: “Are you having thoughts about killing yourself?” (If that’s too uncomfortable for you, find someone who can ask).
It’s always better to ask directly than not to do so, and regret that you didn’t later.
Suicide Warning Signs
Suicide is not inevitable. It’s preventable. Here are some warning signs to look for:
- Noticeable change in behavior.
- Signs of depression (sleeping problems, change in appetite, feelings of hopelessness, etc.)
- Alcohol or drug abuse.
- Obsession with death.
- Decline in performance or participation in activities.
- Suicidal gesturing or reckless behavior.
- Giving away prized possessions.
- Unusual purchases (weapon, rope, pills).
- Sudden happiness after a prolonged depression.
- Talking about suicide or dying.
- Withdrawal from friends or family or saying goodbye to them.
- Previous suicide attempts.
- Statements about hopelessness, worthlessness, helplessness.
- Inability to concentrate or trouble remembering.
- Chronic pain or frequent complaints of physical symptoms.
5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain
Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question but studies show that asking at-risk people if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to our funders for supporting teen suicide prevention services.
For additional information, contact Heather Trish at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 432-5265.