Suicide rates are rising in the U.S. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans of all ages, with approximately 123 dying by suicide every day. It is difficult to understand what drives people to take their own lives, but people considering suicide are in so much pain that they don’t see any other option.
Suicide prevention is all about knowing the warning signs and taking them seriously. Suicide, and mental health in general, can be tough to bring up in conversation, but talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life. If you think a family member or friend might be suicidal, don’t be afraid to speak up.
Here are the most common warning signs of suicide:
- Talking about suicide, dying, or self-harm: phrases such as, “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again,” and “I’d be better off dead.”
- Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, and other objects that could be used to commit suicide.
- Preoccupation with death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
- No hope for the future. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped. Belief that things will never get better or change.
- Self-loathing or self-hatred. Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and being a burden. Saying things such as, “Everyone would be better off without me.”
- Getting affairs in order, such as making out a will, giving away prized possessions, and making arrangements for family members.
- Saying goodbye as if they won’t be seen again, or making unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends.
- Withdrawing from others and wanting to be left alone.
- Self-destructive behavior such as increased alcohol or drug abuse, reckless driving, unsafe sex, and taking other unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
- Sudden sense of calm: A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.
The No. 1 suicide prevention tip: Speak up if you’re worried
The best way to find out if someone is suicidal is to ask. Bringing up suicide won’t make them feel more suicidal; they will know you are coming from a place of caring. By starting the conversation, you give a suicidal person the chance to talk about his or her feelings, which can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings — and can even prevent a suicide attempt.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide
Here are ways to start a conversation with your loved one about suicide from HelpGuide:
- “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
- “Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
- “I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”
Questions you can ask
- “When did you begin feeling like this?”
- “Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
- “How can I best support you right now?”
- “Have you thought about getting help?”
What you can say that helps
- “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.”
- “You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.”
- “I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
- “When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute — whatever you can manage.”
Let the person know you care and that he or she is not alone. Don’t overthink the “right” words to say, because your voice and manner will show your concern. Be a listener once it is your loved one’s turn to speak. They may unload and vent to you, but that is a positive sign. Be sympathetic and patient; let your loved one know they can tell you about their feelings. Always take what they have to say seriously. Most important — make sure your loved one knows that his or her life matters to you.