Suicide is a complex, preventable public health problem that affects individuals, families, and communities. It can be prevented by teaching coping and problem-solving skills, increasing access to mental and physical health care and connecting people at risk with effective resources.
The CDC recommends a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention. This includes prevention and protective strategies that are at the community, state, and federal levels.
1. Talk About It
Talking about suicide is a powerful tool to help prevent it. It is a way to reduce the stigma around mental health and encourage people to get the treatment they need.
Suicide can touch anyone, anywhere, at any time. It is a serious problem that touches many communities and affects families, friends, and coworkers.
Everyone has a role in helping prevent suicide, from schools and employers to faith groups and community organizations.
This is especially true for rural counties that have been experiencing a double digit increase in suicide rates.
When talking with someone about their suicide thoughts or plans, listen carefully without interrupting or judging and show them that you care. This can be done through active listening, direct eye contact, physical calmness, and “leaning in” to their feelings rather than trying to change the topic or avoid the content of their thoughts.
Some signs of suicidal behavior include: dramatic changes, plan/method/access to lethal weapons, and sudden unexplained happiness (after a period of severe distress). If you notice these signs or others that indicate your friend or loved one is in crisis, call 988 or chat with the Lifeline for help.
2. Be There
A person who is in a lot of pain will often project that pain onto others, so being there can be one of the best things you can do. If you show someone love and support, they will feel happier and more able to cope with the world around them.
A great way to do this is by being a listening ear. Talking with someone who has suicidal thoughts can help them understand their feelings and learn coping skills to manage the problem.
If they don’t have a mental health provider, let them know that you can help them find one. Offer to research treatment options, make phone calls and review insurance benefit information.
Getting help right away is essential to save someone from suicide. If you suspect your loved one is at risk, call a crisis line or get them to a hospital emergency room immediately.
3. Remove Dangerous or Lethal Items
When a person is at risk of suicide, it is important to remove dangerous or lethal items from the home. These can include firearms, drugs, chemicals used in the household and other poisons.
Removing dangerous or lethal items can help prevent suicidal behaviors and reduce stigma. It can also provide a sense of control and help the person feel safe and secure.
Taking action can be difficult, but it is necessary to prevent suicides from happening. It is especially important for patients who have recently tried to kill themselves or have a history of suicidal thoughts.
While removing potentially lethal items from a home is the most effective strategy for preventing suicide, other approaches to safety planning can also be useful. These can include limiting access to medications and alcohol, keeping all medications locked in a safe storage box, and educating the family about how to store firearms safely.
4. Follow Up
When a young person has suicidal thoughts, it is important to follow up with them and encourage them to talk about their intentions. This can help them understand that their thoughts are serious, and help them to develop a personal safety plan (see above).
It also helps them to think about the completeness of their plans and how dangerous they may be. This will help them to feel supported and less likely to make a suicide attempt.
Following up with a young person can be difficult, but it is also important. It can be especially useful if the person has expressed feelings of loneliness or depression and hasn’t talked to someone about them. It can also be helpful for a young person who has just had a traumatic experience and is feeling overwhelmed.