Suicide Prevention: Knowing When It’s Time to Seek Help

Suicide Prevention: Knowing When It’s Time to Seek Help


Suicide is a somewhat taboo topic in our society, yet 47,172 Americans died by suicide in 2017. It’s the second-most common cause of death among young people, and for each death by suicide, there are as many as 100 suicide attempts. Suicide can be prevented, and prevention begins with awareness and education. Below are risk factors, warning signs, and ways to prevent and help others or yourself move toward wellness.


Risk Factors


●      Alcohol and other substance abuse issues.

●      Untreated depression.

●      Untreated mental illness such as bipolar disorder or psychosis. Mental health issues are more common than most think.

●      Previous suicide attempt(s).

●      Significant loss(es), such as an important relationship or job.

●      History of trauma or abuse.

●      A long-term chronic illness.

●      Family history of suicide.

●      Lack of social support and a sense of isolation.

●      Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma.

●      Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and internet).


Warning Signs


About 80 percent of people who attempt or complete suicide send out warning signs to those around them. Some signs that may indicate it’s time to seek help include:

●      Preparing for death by giving away possessions and clearing up loose ends.

●      Thinking of a specific suicide method and rehearsing it in their mind. Even if the person’s suicidal feeling goes away, this type of preparation makes it easier for them to follow through if the impulse strikes again.

●      Expressing self-contempt and making comments about no longer having a reason to live, wanting to die, and feeling hopeless.

●      Talking about being a burden to others.

●      Isolating themselves and withdrawing from relationships and activities.

●      Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

●      Engaging in uncharacteristically high-risk activity.

●      Sleeping too little or too much.

Options for Prevention and Wellness

Most people who feel suicidal don’t actually want to die; they just don’t want to live feeling the way they do, experiencing unbearable emotional pain. This is why talking about other options is so important. Here are a few to share with anyone you know who might be struggling:

●      If you or a loved one is dealing with alcohol or substance abuse, seeking help is not merely an option, it is a must. While untreated mental illness is the number one cause of suicide, addiction to drugs and/or alcohol is a close second. Roughly one in three people who die from suicide are under the influence of drugs.

●      Research indicates that talking openly about suicide with someone can reduce the risk of an attempt. Find a support group as well as a therapist you feel comfortable with.

●      If you sense that a loved one might be suicidal, ask them directly. Remind them that you care, and offer to assist by making an appointment to see a professional. For those in immediate danger, take them to a doctor or hospital emergency room immediately.

●      Download one of the many free apps such as Suicide Crisis Support for Androids and Virtual Hope Box for iOS devices. 

●      Practice self-care by getting enough sleep and exercise and eating well.

●      Keep a journal to write down your thoughts, feelings, and fears.

●      Look into alternative supplements that can help with stress, anxiety, and depression. For example, many people have had success with CBD oil, and many have had fewer side effects than with traditional medication. Of course, with so many different products on the market these days, do plenty of research before you buy, and discuss any supplements with your doctor before beginning.

●      Explore activities that make you feel good about yourself, be it walking on nature trails or taking a pottery class.

●      Make a safety plan. This is a step-by-step plan to follow the next time you or a loved one feels suicidal. It can be difficult to come up with a plan during a crisis, so it’s important to have a course of action ready before thoughts of suicide occur.

●      Pay close attention to senior loved ones. With 18 percent of Americans over the age of 65 living alone, isolation becomes a real danger for seniors, putting them at increased risk of suffering from depression. 

No one struggling with feeling suicidal should have to feel any form of shame or isolation. Hopefully, the key points above will help bring greater awareness on the issue. If you or someone you know may be suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911.