Listen Live

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2019.

If you or someone you know is in danger of harming themselves, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide.

Warning signs of suicide

There are a variety of behaviors that might indicate someone is thinking about suicide.

Talking about:

  • Wanting to die
  • Great guilt or shame
  • Being a burden to others

Feeling:

  • Empty, hopeless, trapped or having no reason to live
  • Extremely sad, more anxious, agitated or full of rage
  • Unbearable emotional or physical pain

Changing behavior, such as:

  • Making a plan or researching ways to die
  • Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye giving away important items or making a will
  • Taking dangerous risks, such as driving extremely fast
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Eating or sleeping more or less
  • Using drugs or alcohol more often

If you see any of these warning signs, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available to those in need, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Risk factors for suicide

There are many risk factors for suicide, and it’s important to be aware of them so that you can help someone who may be in danger. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Mental health disorders — Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse.
  • Previous suicide attempts — People who have attempted suicide before are at a higher risk of doing so again.
  • Family history of suicide — Those with a family history of suicide may be more likely to do so as well.
  • Exposure to violence — Witnessing or experiencing violence can increase the risk of suicide.
  • Isolation — People who feel isolated and alone are at a higher risk for suicide.

If you are worried about someone, it is important to talk to them. You can also call a suicide hotline for support.

Warning signs of suicide

National Institute of Mental Health

How to help someone who is suicidal

It can be a difficult conversation, but it is important to let a suicidal person immediately know that you are there for them and that they are not alone.

  • Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  • Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  • Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may actually reduce suicidal thoughts.
  • Help them connect: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741) in your phone, so it’s there when you need it. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor or mental health professional.
  • Stay connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

If you think they are in immediate danger, call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room.

Action steps for helping someone in emotional pain

National Institute of Mental Health

Resources for help

If you are worried about someone you know showing warning signs of suicide, here are some resources:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — Phone: 1-800-273-8255 Free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones and best practices for professionals.

The Crisis Text Line — Text: “HELLO” to 741741 Text from anywhere in the US to text with a trained crisis counselor.

The Trevor Project — Phone: 1-866-488-7386 | Text: “START” to 678678 The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.

Trans Lifeline — Phone: 877-565-8860 Trans Lifeline is dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of the community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. The peer support hotline is run by and for trans people.

Veterans Crisis Line — Phone: 1-800-273-8255 | Text: 838255 The qualified responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping veterans of all ages and circumstances; many of the responders are veterans themselves.