Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Some suicides are impulsive acts due to stress, such as from financial difficulties, troubles with relationships, or bullying. Those who have previously attempted suicides are at a higher risk for future attempts Suicide has strong emotional repercussions for its survivors and for families of its victims.
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These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss or change.
Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behavior is complex and there is no single cause. In fact, many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. But people most at risk tend to share certain characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide are:
Many people have some of these risk factors but do not attempt suicide. It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.
A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives don’t want to die—they just want to stop hurting. Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.
Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just can’t see one.
Myth: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone,” “I can’t see any way out,”—no matter how casually or jokingly said—may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
Myth: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.
Fact: Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They are upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.
Myth: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.
Myth: People who die by suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Fact: Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.
Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true—bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
Suicide Prevention Hotline in Spanish
1-800-273-TALK (press 2)
LGBT Youth Suicide Hotline
National Hopeline Network
National Youth Crisis Hotline
SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education)
According to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates for adults in the United States are on the rise; since 1999, suicide rates in 25 states increased by more than 30%. In the US, suicide accounted for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016.
Each person who dies by suicide leaves behind an estimated six or more “suicide survivors” — people who’ve lost someone they care about deeply and are left grieving and struggling to understand.
The grief process is always difficult. But a loss through suicide is like no other, and grieving can be especially complex and traumatic. People coping with this kind of loss often need more support than others, but may get less. Why? Survivors may be reluctant to confide that the death was self-inflicted. And when others know the circumstances of the death, they may feel uncertain about how to offer help.
The death of a loved one is never easy to experience, whether it comes without warning or after a long struggle with illness. But several circumstances set death by suicide apart and make the process of bereavement more challenging.
Suicide survivors are more likely than other bereaved people to seek the help of a mental health professional. Look for a skilled therapist who is experienced in working with grief after suicide.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Suicide statistics and facts.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Data & statistics for research.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Promotes a public health approach to suicide prevention.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
A report of the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Interventions for suicide risk.
No one wants to talk about it, but suicide is a leading cause of death among teens. The good news is, schools are uniquely positioned to help. Student reporters from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs investigate what schools can do.
Many students are emotionally unprepared for college and develop mental illness or even commit suicide.
You have an incurable illness, you want to die, and you want help dying – what can you do? People who are terminally ill and live in Oregon or Washington can openly ask a doctor for help, but in the rest of country, where physician-assisted suicide is illegal, people who are suffering turn in secret to friends, family members, and even activist organizations. In this groundbreaking 90-minute film, FRONTLINE explores the shadow world of assisted suicide, where the lines between legality and criminality are blurred as never before. With intimate access to decisions near the end of life, FRONTLINE takes viewers inside one of the most polarizing social issues of our time – told not only by the people choosing to die, but also by their “assisters,” individuals and right-to-die organizations at risk of prosecution for their actions to hasten death.