Suicide Prevention: Identifying Warning Signs and How to Help

Suicide Prevention

and Health

Suicide prevention is a major public health concern, with estimates showing that someone dies by suicide every 14.5 minutes in the United States. This is why it is so important to be aware of the warning signs that may indicate that someone is at risk for suicide, and how to help them if they do express suicidal thoughts or feelings.

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts or Intent

When someone is considering suicide, they may display certain behaviors and warn people of the danger they are in. Common warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or feeling like a burden
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or hobbies they normally enjoy
  • Risky or self-destructive behavior
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Agitation, irritability or restlessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little

Note that feelings of suicide can come on suddenly and be difficult to recognize, so it’s important to look out for any changes in behavior that could indicate that someone may be at risk.

Getting Help for Someone with Suicidal Thoughts or Intent

If someone has expressed thoughts of suicide, it is important to take their feelings seriously and get them help immediately.

Firstly call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Suicidal people can be helped, so it is important to stay with them or have someone stay with them until professional help arrives.

If the person is not in immediate danger, professional help should still be sought out. A mental health professional, such as a psychologist or therapist, is well prepared to help someone who is at risk of suicide, or who is dealing with suicidal thoughts and feelings.

Looking After Oneself

When helping someone through a difficult time, it is important to also take care of one’s own mental and physical health. Taking a break from the situation, forming a strong support system and finding an outlet for stress, such as exercise, yoga or meditation, can help to prevent burnout.


Suicide prevention is an important part of public health, and having an understanding of the warning signs of suicide and how to help someone who is at risk is key to ensuring the safety of those who need help.

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