During the past week, communities across the nation have engaged in a variety of social events commemorating National Suicide Prevention Week; today, the world joins in to celebrate World Suicide Prevention Day. The hashtag #StopSuicide can be found across social media platforms, with messages of hope, support, and survival. Neighbors and friends walk together in local Out of the Darkness Walks to raise awareness and support for suicide prevention resources.
Every year, suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. In the United States, a person dies from suicide approximately every 12.8 minutes. For those not in the grips of depression and despair, it can be difficult to understand what drives so many individuals to take their own lives. Often overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief, except through death. By knowing the warning signs and learning tips to help prevent suicide, you can potentially communicate to a suicidal individual that there is an alternative.
Speak up. If you spot the warning signs of suicide, speak up. Warning signs can include:
Loss of interest
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Isolation from family and friends
Talk of killing oneself, being a burden to others, or having nothing to live for
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult, but, if you are worried someone may be suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. A few ideas for starting a conversation might include:
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.
When talking to a suicidal person there are some do’s and don’ts to remember:
Be yourself. Let the person know you care. Though you may not have the right words, simply showing you care and voicing your concern can help.
Listen. Let the person speak and unload his or her feelings of despair. No matter how difficult or negative the conversation may seem, the fact that the conversation is taking place is a positive sign.
Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, and accepting.
Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that his or her life is important to you.
Argue with the person. Avoid saying things like: “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or, “You have so much to live for.”
Act shocked, tell him or her suicide is wrong, or lecture the person on the value of life.
- Promise confidentiality. His or her life may be at stake and you may need to speak with a mental health professional to keep the person safe.
If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear and letting your loved one know he or she is not alone. Don’t take responsibility for making your loved one well; you can offer support, but you can’t make things better for the person. He or she must make a personal commitment to recovery. Do everything in your power to get the professional help he or she needs.
The Effort suicide prevention crisis line can be helpful for advice and resources, (916) 368-3111. For more information on what signs to look for, the right words to say, and additional resources, visit, Know The Signs website.
“Our goal is to raise awareness around suicide prevention and through the project, ‘Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think’
to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness,” says Julie Leung, Program Planner for Sacramento County Behavioral Health Services. “Help and recovery is possible. If you or someone you know needs help, reach out.”