Are you feeling desperate,
alone or hopeless?
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
Most of the time, people who kill themselves show one or more of these warning signs before they take action
- Talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun
- Talking about a specific suicide plan
- Feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Feeling trapped, desperate, or needing to escape from an intolerable situation
- Having the feeling of being a burden to others
- Feeling humiliated
- Having intense anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Losing interest in things, or losing the ability to experience pleasure
- Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family, and others
- Acting irritable or agitated
- Showing rage, or talking about seeking revenge for being victimized or rejected, whether or not the situations the person describes seem real
- Individuals who show such behaviors should be evaluated for possible suicide risk by a medical doctor or mental health professional.
What To Do When You Suspect Someone May Be at Risk for Suicide
Take it Seriously
- 50% to 75% of all people who attempt suicide tell someone about their intention.
- If someone you know shows the warning signs above, the time to act is now.
- Begin by telling the suicidal person you are concerned about them.
- Tell them specifically what they have said or done that makes you feel concerned about suicide.
- Don't be afraid to ask whether the person is considering suicide, and whether they have a particular plan or method in mind. These questions will not push them toward suicide if they were not considering it.
- Ask if they are seeing a clinician or are taking medication so the treating person can be contacted.
- Do not try to argue someone out of suicide. Instead, let them know that you care, that they are not alone and that they can get help. Avoid pleading and preaching to them with statements such as, "You have so much to live for," or "Your suicide will hurt your family."
Encourage Professional Help
- Actively encourage the person to see a physician or mental health professional immediately.
- People considering suicide often believe they cannot be helped. If you can, assist them to identify a professional and schedule an appointment. If they will let you, go to the appointment with them.
- If the person is threatening, talking about, or making specific plans for suicide, this is a crisis requiring immediate attention. Do not leave the person alone.
- Remove from the area any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used for suicide.
- Take the person to a walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital or a hospital emergency room.
- If these options are not available, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for assistance.
Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
By Joan Garrett McClane
Photography by Maura Friedman
Design, graphics and production by
Michael Ku, Laura McNutt, Maura Friedman, Ken Barrett
Research was contributed by Mary Helen Miller