#BeThe1To Help Save a Life

Suicide is a major public health concern. Over 47,000 people died by suicide in the United States in 2017; it is the 10th leading cause of death overall. Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it is often preventable. Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives.

If you know someone in crisis: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. All calls are confidential. Contact social media outlets directly if you are concerned about a friend’s social media updates or dial 911 in an emergency. Learn more on the Lifeline’s website or the Crisis Text Line’s website. 

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide: 

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live 
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun 
  • Talking about great guilt or shame 
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions 
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain) 
  • Talking about being a burden to others 
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often 
  • Acting anxious or agitated 
  • Withdrawing from family and friends 
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits 
  • Showing rage or talking about revenge 
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast 
  • Talking or thinking about death often 
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy 
  • Giving away important possessions 
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family 
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or increased recently.

#BeThe1To help someone in emotional pain. Here are five steps you can take: 

  1. ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts. 
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference. 
  3. BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the person thinks and feels. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may, in fact, reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts. 
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's number, so it's in your phone, when you need it: 1-800- 273-TALK (8255). You can also help to make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional. 
  5. STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored. 

Often, family and friends are the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide and can be the first step toward helping an at-risk individual find treatment with someone who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. 

Treatments and Therapies 

Multiple types of psychosocial interventions, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, have been found to help individuals who have tried to die by suicide. These types of interventions may prevent someone from trying again. Some individuals at risk for suicide might benefit from medication. Doctors and patients can work together to find the best medication. 

Safety Planning: Personalized safety planning has been shown to help reduce suicidal thoughts and actions. Patients work with a caregiver to develop a plan that describes ways to limit access to lethal means such as firearms, pills, or poisons. The plan also lists coping strategies and people and resources that can help in a crisis. 

Follow-up Phone Calls: Research has shown that when at-risk patients receive further screening, a Safety Plan intervention, and a series of supportive phone calls, their risk of suicide goes down. 

-Article from nimh.nih.gov/suicideprevention. To learn more, please visit www.bethe1to.com.