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by Nina Westbrook


Mind

Suicide Today: What to Know about Warning Signs, Risk Factors, and Prevention


Explore risk factors and warning signs around suicide, and some steps you can take if you or someone you know is at risk.

by Nina Westbrook


Suicide Today: What to Know about Warning Signs, Risk Factors, and Prevention

by Nina Westbrook


The information provided in this post is to be used for educational purposes only. It should NOT be used as a substitute for seeking professional care for the diagnosis and treatment of any mental/psychiatric disorders. Our information is designed to be used for peer support and should be used in conjunction with professional care.

If you are considering harming yourself or someone else, or if you suspect someone you know is in immediate danger of the same, call 9-1-1 immediately.

The TRAGIC loss of Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019 who took her own life last month, has reignited the conversation around mental health, depression (particularly high-functioning depression), and the fact that many of us don’t realize the people we’re closest to may be struggling.

According to recent data, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2019 alone, there were roughly 1.38 million suicide attempts. That same year, 47,511 Americans died by suicide. Suicide isn’t an easy topic to talk about or read about—and the science behind suicide is just as complex as it is tragic. There’s not a simple, singular reason people take their own lives. Causality is often related to hopelessness and despair—the convergence of mental health factors (such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse) and life stressors.

Whether you’ve struggled with notions of suicide yourself, you’ve lost a loved one to suicide, or you’re concerned about a friend’s or family member’s risk for suicide, know that you’re not alone and that there is an abundance of help available. Today we explore risk factors and warning signs around suicide, and some steps you can take if you or someone you know is at risk.

RISK FACTORS

  • Mental health conditions, especially depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and conduct disorder

  • Substance use and abuse issues

  • Aggressive tendencies

  • Chronic illness and major physical health challenges

  • History of trauma and abuse

  • Previous suicide attempts

  • Family history of suicide

  • Access to lethal means, including firearms and drugs

  • Stressful life events (particularly prolonged stress), including financial crisis, job loss, divorce, relationship problems, and other major transitions

  • Lack of strong relationships

  • Harassment and bullying

  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide in person, in the media, or on the internet

  • Certain cultural and religious beliefs

  • Lack of access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment

WARNING SIGNS

  • Talking or posting on social media about wanting to die or harm themselves

  • Giving away possessions, whether or not those items seem to be significant

  • Preoccupation with death and dying

  • Researching ways to die

  • Sleeping very little or too much

  • Withdrawing from friends or social activities

  • Reckless behavior

  • Loss of interest in work, school, or hobbies

  • Preparations for death, including purchasing tools or weapons, writing a will, or planning

If you’re having thoughts about suicide, reach out to stay safe. This is the first and most important step. Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you! Go immediately to a mental health facility or nearby emergency room and ask for help, or contact the below resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline | 24/7 free and confidential support

800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line | Text with a trained Crisis Counselor from anywhere in the U.S.

text TALK to 741741

If you’re worried that someone else is thinking about suicide, here are some steps you can take:

  • Have an honest, private conversation.

  • Listen to their story.

  • Tell them that their life matters to you.

  • Directly ask if they’re considering suicide, without judgment.

  • Avoid debating the value of life, morality, etc.

If the person says they’re thinking about suicide, take them seriously and act.

  • Assume you may be the only person who knows.

  • Ask for help from others—you don’t have to shoulder this alone!

  • Work with the person at risk and others to remove accessible lethal means, such as firearms and drugs.

  • Accompany the person to a local mental health facility or an emergency room, or stay with the person and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline together at 800-273-8255.

For more information about suicide, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Visit the Bene RESOURCES page for a list of mental health organizations.