Suicide Prevention

People consider suicide when they are feeling hopeless and cannot see other options for solving problems. Sometimes when people are extremely distressed they believe that suicide is their only option. Individuals who contemplate suicide are not “crazy”, often suicidal people feel terribly isolated and because of their distress, they may not believe that they can turn to someone for help, furthering this isolation.1Suicidal behavior is often related to psychiatric disorders, such as depression, substance use, or borderline personality disorder. Suicidal behavior is more likely to be experienced by individuals who have suffered losses or extremely stressful events. While there is no one best measure to predict the potential for someone to attempt suicide, there are several factors that place individuals at greater risk. Read more about identifying potential Suicidal Behavior.

FAQs

People consider suicide when they are feeling hopeless and cannot see other options for solving problems. Sometimes when people are extremely distressed they believe that suicide is their only option. Individuals who contemplate suicide are not “crazy”, often suicidal people feel terribly isolated and because of their distress, they may not believe that they can turn to someone for help, furthering this isolation.1Suicidal behavior is often related to psychiatric disorders, such as depression, substance use, or borderline personality disorder. Suicidal behavior is more likely to be experienced by individuals who have suffered losses or extremely stressful events. Help is available. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 1-866-284-3743.

More than four times as many men as women die by suicide3; but women attempt suicide more often during their lives than men4. Suicide rates are highest among the elderly, particularly older white males. Over 70 percent of older suicide victims have visited their primary care physician within the month of their death, many did not tell their doctor that they were depressed nor did the doctor detect depression symptoms.5

Other risk factors include:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of mental disorders, particularly depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or suicidal thoughts
  • Cultural and religious beliefs–for instance, the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being separate from other people

Sometimes people will give clues or warning signs that they need help, but often warnings are not recognized. Some warning signs include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Depression
  • Talking, writing or hinting about suicide
  • Previous attempts
  • Making statement about hopelessness and helplessness
  • Purposefully putting personal affairs in order

If someone you care about is exhibiting warning signs it does not guarantee that they are contemplating suicide. If you are concerned that someone may be at risk, particularly if they are exhibiting warning signs, take the initiative to ask what is troubling them and be persistent if the individual is reluctant to talk. It can come as a great relief to know that someone else has some insight into how they fee.1

If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, you should take their distress seriously, listen without judgment, and help them get to a professional for evaluation and treatment. If someone is in imminent danger, do not leave the person alone. You may need to take emergency steps to get help, such as calling 9-1-1. When someone is in a suicidal crisis, it is important to limit access to firearms or other lethal means of committing suicide, including medications or sharp objects.2

Psychotherapy and/or medications may be helpful for helping a suicidal person solve problems that are causing the suicidal feelings. A trained professional must assess the situation and make treatment recommendations.

References:

1 Modified from HealthyPlace.com, Suicide FAQ.

2 Modified from the National Institute of Mental Health, Frequently Asked Questions about Suicide.

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (producer). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2004).

4 Krug EG, Dahlberg LL, Mercy JA, Zwi AB, Lozano R, editors. World report on violence and health [serial online]. 2004 May.

5 Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon Generals call to action to prevent suicide. Washington (DC): Department of Health and Human Services; 1999.

Professional Help

Community Resources

Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy – Find a Therapist
or call 1-212-647-1890.

American Psychological Association – Find a Psychologist
or call 1-800-964-2000.

National Association of Social Workers – Search Clinical Register

Locate a Psychiatrist, call toll-free 1-888-35-PSYCH. Outside the U.S. and Canada call 1-703-907-7300.

Vet Center Counseling Services

Self-Help Resources

Suicide prevention information is organized here, with links to additional resources. Individuals receiving treatment for suicide may also be struggling with depression, PTSD, anger management issues, or any number of other physical and/or mental health conditions. You may find the self-help resources posted under other behavioral health categories on this web site helpful.

The National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE provides trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

1-800-273-TALK (8255), free and confidential hotline available 24/7. Trained counselors available to support Military Veterans.

Fact Sheets and Handouts

Feeling Suicidal? How to Help Yourself
Healthy Place.com: A Depression Community

Taking Care of Yourself After an Attempt—Moving Ahead After Your Treatment in the Emergency Department
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Information about moving ahead following treatment for a suicide attempt provides resources about suicide and mental illnesses. Learn to create a safety plan, build a support system and learn to live again, by getting into a regular routine and reconnecting with people.

Adolescent Suicide
Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies

When Someone You Care about is Suicidal

If someone tells you they are thinking about suicide, you should take their distress seriously, listen without judgment, and help them get to a professional for evaluation and treatment. If someone is in imminent danger, do not leave the person alone. You may need to take emergency steps to get help, such as calling 9-1-1. When someone is in a suicidal crisis, it is important to limit access to firearms or other lethal means of killing oneself, including medications or sharp objects.

Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Facts about suicide warnings signs, what to do, and where to get help.

A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration
Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative’s suicide attempt.

How Can I Get Him to Seek Help: Talking Points for Women
Courage to Care Fact Sheet

Books & Workbooks

Choosing to Live: How to Defeat Suicide Through Cognitive Therapy
By T. Ellis & C. Newman
An easy-to-read book helps suicidal people understand their suffering while taking charge of their own healing.

Web Resources

Defense Suicide Prevention Office
The mission of the Defense Suicide Prevention Office, or DSPO, is to provide advocacy, program oversight and policy for Department of Defense suicide prevention, intervention and postvention efforts to reduce suicidal behaviors in Service members, civilians and their families.

Military OneSource
Locate a number of useful resources about the impact of suicide on those left behind and suicide prevention.

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
The mission of SAVE is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, eliminate stigma and serve as a resource to those touched by suicide.

American Association of Suicidology
The AAS is an education and resource organization dedicated to the understanding and prevention of suicide.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The AFSP is the only national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to funding research, developing prevention initiatives and offering educational programs and conferences for survivors, mental health professionals, physicians and the public.

Medline Plus
This web site has compiled the latest suicide prevention information, news from professional organizations, information on screening, coping, and much more.

Veteran and Military Family Health
U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health

Resources for OEF/OIF Veterans
Department of Veterans Affairs

Other Helpful Resources

Suicide Prevention Videos
Afterdeployment: A wellness resource for the military community.

Real Warriors Campaign
Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury

Treatment Options

Psychotherapy and medications can be effective for treating specific psychiatric disorders. In general, psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is more than talking about problems, it’s about finding solutions. A good therapist will help individual’s develop skills for coping with overwhelming feelings and symptoms, and help change behavior patterns that may be contributing to suicidal thoughts. Medications may offer acute relief from suicidal thoughts and urges. Because not all treatments work the same or are appropriate for all individuals, speak with a provider to determine which treatment may be right for you.

The National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE provides trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Find a local crisis center.

Find a Counselor
From the Military Spouse Career Center

Mental Health Self Assessment Program
Screening for Mental Health, Inc.