Helping Someone Who Is Suicidal

A woman sitting on a bench with an umbrella under a sunny sky

suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States, with over 30,000 Americans dying from it each year. Among those that die, Depression is the leading cause of suicide. Up to 15% of all suicide deaths suffer from either Depression or some affective disorder (such as bipolar disorder). Be aware that most people don’t commit suicide because they want to die. They commit suicide as a way to get away from the constant battle that is their life, and the emotions that they feel will never end.

Helping Someone Who Is Suicidal

Here, we will simply present some of the warning signs of suicide, and what can be done to prevent it.

Warning signs:

  • Talking about suicide (It is estimated that 80% of those who commit suicide mentioned wanting to commit suicide to a family member or friend)
  • Has trouble eating or sleeping
  • Increases their use of alcohol or drugs
  • Drastic changes in behavior
  • Withdraws from friends or social activities
  • Statements about hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Has attempted suicide before
  • Takes unnecessary risks
  • Severe recent losses
  • Suddenly happier, calmer
  • Loss of interest in things one cares about such as hobbies, work, or school
  • Visiting or calling people one cares about
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order such as a will and final arrangements
  • Giving prized possessions away
  • Loses interest in their personal appearance

Things you can do to help a person who may be suicidal:

  • Be straightforward; talk openly about suicide; don’t skirt the issue
  • Be willing to listen. Accept their feelings; Express yours; accept theirs
  • Be non-judgmental; don’t debate the right or wrong of suicide
  • Be available; be involved
  • Don’t dare them to do it
  • Don’t act shocked
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy; seek support
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available; don’t offer pat reassurance
  • Take action; Remove any means they may have to commit suicide such as guns or stockpiled pills
  • Get help from agencies specialized in crisis intervention. Once such phone number is 1-800-SUICIDE

Suggest resources for them to get help:

  • Community mental health Agency
  • Private Therapist or Counselor
  • School Counselor or Psychologist
  • Family Physician
  • suicide prevention or Crisis Center (1-800-SUICIDE for example)


Derek Wood is a Nationally Board Certified Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse, and holds a Master's degree in Psychology. His experience in the online arena of mental health can be traced back to 1997, when he was a host for Online Psych on AOL. He joined Get Mental Help, Inc. as Clinical Content Director for Mental Health Matters. Derek, with his wife Lisa, developed the original version of psychTracker (then called A Mood Journal), after his diagnosis with Schizo-Affective Bipolar, when they could not find a system available that was robust enough to help him effectively manage his symptoms and accurately interpret his charting. Derek has worked in the field of mental health since 2001, as a Unit Manager of an adult long-term treatment facility, a charge nurse in an adolescent short-term inpatient facility and long-term residential facility, and as a School Psychologist. He has also written several articles which are being used as CEU for nurses and educators.

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