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Preventing suicide

Tens of thousands of people in the United States take their own lives each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

In addition to all of these lives lost, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) says there are millions of suicide loss survivors in the United States. These are the family, friends and loved ones who are left behind after suicide. Survivors often face an intense, complex and long-term grieving process, which commonly includes feelings of guilt, anger, shame, abandonment, anxiety, loneliness, depression, rejection, confusion and hopelessness.

Suicide can often be prevented with proper treatment. Any person who sees signs of suicidal thoughts or feelings in themselves, a loved one, a co-worker, a student or a patient may save a life by simply getting help.

Important warnings

According to the AAS, people who consider suicide often feel that there's no way out of their sadness or pain, that they're not worthwhile or that they have no control.

These thoughts and feelings may eventually lead to outward signs such as:

  • Making threats or talking about hurting or killing himself or herself.
  • Looking for access to a gun, medicines or some other means of killing himself or herself.
  • Suddenly starting to talk or write about death, dying or suicide.
  • Acting reckless or doing risky things, without seeming to think about it.
  • Having no sense of purpose in life and seeing no reason for living.
  • Having dramatic mood changes.
  • Withdrawing from family, friends and society.

How to help

If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, get help right away. Seek help from a mental health agency in your community, a therapist or counselor, a doctor, or a suicide prevention or crisis center. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800.273.8255) offers access to trained telephone counselors.

If someone seems to be at immediate risk for suicide, he or she must not be left alone. Encourage the person to contact his or her doctor or go to the emergency room, or call 911. Get rid of guns, medicines and other means the person could use to take his or her life.

The NIMH also notes that one of the main risk factors for suicide is mental illness or substance abuse disorder. Proper treatment for these problems can help ensure that people don't ever progress to a crisis.

reviewed 8/19/2019

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