Suicide is a major public health issue that impacts individuals, families, communities and societies. It can be prevented through efforts to mitigate risk factors and enhance protective factors.
Preventing suicide requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes mental health professionals and community members. It is essential to raise awareness of the issues and provide support for those who may be in crisis.
1. Know the Signs
Taking action when a loved one is exhibiting signs of suicide can save their life. Suicide is often a complex, multifaceted problem that involves multiple factors such as financial strain, legal problems, relationship difficulties, or chronic pain.
Those struggling with these issues may feel overwhelmed and depressed or find that they have lost their sense of purpose in life. They may also have a strong belief that suicide is their only way out.
People who talk about death or threaten to die are usually just seeking attention, but if someone is talking about wanting to die, it’s a warning sign that they may be thinking of suicide.
Another symptom to watch for is behavior that is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If this is the case, it’s important to get help right away and talk to a mental health professional. You can do this by calling 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
2. Know the Risk Factors
Suicide is a complex issue that is caused by a combination of personal, social and cultural factors. No single cause can explain or predict suicide, but risk factors can increase the chance of someone attempting to take their own life.
Many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to cope with the stresses and challenges of everyday life. These can be financial problems, relationship break-ups or chronic pain and illness.
These risks can be managed through key prevention strategies. These include reducing access to means of suicide, raising awareness, improving mental health care and support, and ensuring people have the right resources for coping with stress and grief.
The most important long-term risk factor, that is over 5 years after an index attempt, was being a repeater and being diagnosed with psychosis or major depression at baseline (table 3). It is also important to consider other risk factors such as conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, loss or a sense of isolation.
3. Know How to Help
Whether you’re concerned about yourself or someone you know, it’s important to know how to help. It’s also helpful to learn what warning signs to look for.
The most effective way to help someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts is to simply talk to them. Listen, care, validate and be non-judgmental.
Once you’ve identified that they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, it is important to ask them if they have made any plans for how they would end their life. This includes what time, place and method they have in mind.
If you’re unsure about how to help, call the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat with online counselors. These trained professionals are available around the clock to help anyone in need. They can even connect you to local mental health resources if necessary.
4. Know the Resources
As an employer, preventing suicide in your workplace is vital to keeping your employees safe. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Americans, claiming the lives of more than 12,000 people each year (Mental Health America).
One of the best ways to do this is to educate your workforce on how to recognize suicide warning signs. It’s also a good idea to create a culture that respects mental health, focuses on wellness, and rewards employees for staying healthy at work.
Educating your employees isn’t difficult. There are many resources available to teach them how to identify someone who is thinking about suicide.
In addition, the AMA has developed a suicide prevention how-to guide for primary care physicians and health systems. It provides practical strategies and evidence-based resources for identifying patients at risk for suicide and connecting them to the most appropriate treatment plan. This is part of the AMA’s broader efforts to empower health care organizations to overcome barriers to accessible and equitable treatment for their patients’ behavioral, mental and physical health needs.