Tips for Preventing Suicide

Suicide is a complicated issue that requires prevention strategies at multiple levels. These strategies include gatekeeper training, suicide screening and teaching warning signs.

Dramatic changes in a friend’s behavior, skipping school classes or social activities, poor grades or forgetting household chores can be warning signs that suicide is on their mind.

1. Recognize the Warning Signs

While there is no single cause of suicide, certain risk factors and warning signs may increase the likelihood that someone will attempt to take their own life. Learn more about these and other tips for recognizing the warning signs of suicide through CDC’s feature, #BeThere to Help Prevent Suicide and their resource, Vital Signs [PDF].

When a friend exhibits any of the warning signs of suicide, it is important to recognize them and act quickly. If they are in immediate danger, take them to a safe place and remove anything they could use to hurt themselves.

Among the most common warning signs is a dramatic change in behavior. This might include a sudden withdrawal from friends, social activities and family or a sudden desire to spend time alone. It can also be a sign of depression or other mental health issues. Additionally, people who are considering suicide often talk about or make plans for their death.

2. Talk to a Friend

If you know someone who is having suicidal thoughts, it’s important to talk to them. You can do this in person or through a private message, and the conversation should be calm and respectful. It can be tempting to try to cheer them up or tell them to get over it, but this can actually make the situation worse.

Instead, focus on listening to them and asking questions if necessary. This will help them feel like they are not alone. You can also ask them if they have any plans and whether they have any weapons or other ways to hurt themselves.

Depending on the severity of their thoughts, you can also suggest calling 911 or your local suicide hotline. This is important because people who are actively suicidal will need immediate professional support. If they do not agree to seek help, you should call for them and stay with them or on the phone until help arrives.

3. Seek Help

Experts agree that helping someone at risk for suicide includes being available, listening with compassion, and reducing their access to lethal means. For example, if they’ve discussed the specific means they would use to harm themselves (half of youth suicides occur with firearms), it is important to remove those weapons or other lethal items from their environment and provide them with a safe way to store them.

It’s also a good idea to talk with them about their symptoms and concerns. Mental health treatment like psychotherapy has been shown to reduce suicidal thoughts, improve coping skills and help them feel more hopeful about their situation.

In addition, it’s important to remember that these intense feelings are often time-limited. People find solutions, their relationships strengthen and unanticipated positive events can happen. COMHPS teams can help you know what resources are available in your community. Visit our Getting Help page to learn more.

4. Don’t Stay Silent

Suicide is a complex issue that impacts not only individuals but also families and communities. It can be difficult to discuss because there is a stigma associated with mental illness, however it is important to talk about it in order to reduce the stigma and encourage people to seek help for themselves or their loved ones.

It is important to note that while the majority of suicides are caused by mental health issues, completed suicides also have roots in a wide range of cultural, economic, educational, family, and social circumstances. This is why prevention efforts must be comprehensive and collaborative, encompassing areas outside of the realm of medicine and involving key sectors such as education, labour, business, justice, defence, media, and politics.

The most effective way to prevent suicide is by helping to identify warning signs, getting someone in crisis connected with a professional for treatment and keeping lethal weapons and substances out of reach, including from children and adolescents.