Preventing Suicide

Suicide prevention is complex and requires interventions at the individual, systems and community levels. Policy directed at means restriction and public education along with identification methods such as screening, gatekeeper training and primary care physician education are critical.

Anyone who has thoughts of suicide needs immediate help. Keep 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and emergency services numbers handy in case someone you know is at risk.

1. Know the Warning Signs

Millions of children and teens have mental health conditions that are treatable. In many cases, people who attempt suicide give warning signs to their peers, parents or school personnel. These can include:

Red flags might include giving away cherished belongings, sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing from friends and social activities, acting anxious or agitated, or showing rage or desire to enact revenge. They may also talk about suicide, especially if they’ve made a previous attempt or have a history of self-harm.

It’s important to be aware of the warning signs so you can recognize them. Don’t let your friend’s reluctance to talk about it prevent you from asking them what’s on their mind or expressing your concern. Be sure to follow up with them on a regular basis, as suicidal feelings can come and go. Seek help immediately if they threaten or attempt to harm themselves or someone else. It is never okay to hurt yourself or another person.

2. Help Someone You Know

If you know someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, listen and talk with them. If they are in a crisis, encourage them to call a telephone support service or their GP, and go to hospital. It’s important that they hear that their feelings are temporary and that it will get better.

Also ask if they have access to medications or other lethal means of suicide and work with them to remove these things from their home. Research shows that limiting access to lethal means reduces suicide deaths.

Help them connect to people who can offer immediate and ongoing support, such as family members, friends, community leaders or kaumatua (Mori elders). You might also consider saving the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number or BeyondNow, the Beyondblue suicide safety planning app in their phone so that they have a trusted resource available. Follow up with them, even if it’s just to say you are thinking of them.