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5 Steps To Help Someone Who is Suicidal | Risk Factors & Warning Signs

5-Steps-To-Help-Someone-Who-is-Suicidal-_-Risk-Factors-Warning-Signs

Table of Contents

Summary

Suicide is a very serious situation and one that should never be taken lightly. Due to the stigma that is often attached to suicide, it is not uncommon for people experiencing thoughts about suicide to avoid asking for help; therefore, it is imperative to become aware of warning signs, risk factors, and ways you can help.

Suicide 

5 Steps To Help Someone Who is Suicidal | Risk Factors & Warning Signs

If you are currently having any thoughts of hurting yourself or others and feel you cannot keep yourself safe, call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, or tell someone you trust.

Suicide is a very serious situation and one that should never be taken lightly. Due to the stigma that is often attached to suicide, it is not uncommon for people experiencing thoughts about suicide to avoid asking for help; therefore, it is imperative to become aware of warning signs, risk factors, and ways you can help.

Suicide is rarely the result of a single factor and there are many reasons that could cause someone to consider suicide. It is crucial to get familiar with the warning signs and risk factors that can indicate that someone is at serious risk for suicide. 

Warning Signs

Suicide warning signs

Warning signs are true cries for help and are often noticeable changes in someone’s behaviors and ways of thinking.

Common Warning Signs

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Making hopeless statements, such as not wanting to go on anymore
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • No hope for the future
  • Reckless behavior 
  • Withdrawing from activities 
  • Giving away possessions
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out 
  • Increase in alcohol consumption or use of illicit drugs 
  • Sudden & drastic shifts in mood & behavior
  • Low mood, fatigue, irritability 
  • Visiting or calling to say goodbye

Risk Factors

Suicide Risk Factors

Risk factors can predispose a person to consider suicide. These can be things that occured in their past or present.

Common risk factors: 

  • Any mental health condition
  • Substance use
  • Difficult life events, such as childhood trauma or abuse
  • Recent loss or change, such as losing a job or a change in a meaningful relationship
  • Chronic or life-changing medical conditions  
  • Financial issues 
  • Ongoing stress
  • Family history of suicide 
  • Previous suicide attempts 


If someone you know is making statements about not wanting to live or is showing any of the warning signs or risk factors, you should act immediately to get them professional help.


How to respond to someone who is suicidal 

how to respond to someone who is suicidal

Ask directly: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Make sure to ask a clear and direct question when inquiring about suicide. It’s important to remember that asking directly about suicide does not increase the chance of suicide or suicidal thoughts.

Keep them safe: Make sure you do not leave them alone. Ensuring their safety is important and you can do this with direct observation and asking questions about their plan and access to lethal means, such as medication or a firearm. You should attempt to remove these items from their access as soon as possible.

Be supportive: Encourage them to talk and take time to truly listen and seek to understand what they are experiencing. Focus on suspending all judgment and immerse yourself in their lived experience. It is important to never underestimate the power of human connection & presence during a time of despair and hopelessness. 

Contact help: Call your campus safety department, local crisis center, 911, or go to your local emergency department to help them connect with professional help as soon as possible.

Check-in: After they receive help from supportive services make sure to reach out regularly and check in on them. Your support is vital in their ongoing recovery. 

Scholarly Sources

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2021, June 4). After an attempt. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. https://afsp.org/after-an-attempt.

Healey, J. (2014). Suicide Prevention. The Spinney Press

Van Orden, K. A., Joiner, T. E., Jr, Hollar, D., Rudd, M. D., Mandrusiak, M., & Silverman, M. M. (2006). A test of the effectiveness of a list of suicide warning signs for the public. Suicide & Life-Threatening Behavior, 36(3), 272–287. https://doi.org/10.1521/suli.2006.36.3.272

Risk of suicide. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2019, August). https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Risk-of-Suicide

Institute of Medicine, Board on Neuroscience and Behavioral Health, & Sara K. Goldsmith. (2001). Risk Factors for Suicide : Summary of a Workshop. National Academies Press.

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