Suicide prevention, warning signs and treatment

Death by suicide is a tragic and growing problem. It affects people from all walks of life. Sadly, people don’t want to talk about it— they don’t know how to talk about it. Often, people who are contemplating suicide are too ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for help. And their loved ones don’t know how to help or what to say.

The following information may help you or a loved one learn more about suicide—risks, warning signs, and prevention.

Some risk factors for suicide

  • Family history of suicide
  • Past attempts
  • Substance use
  • Mental health conditions such as depression
  • A significant life event such as loss of a job or loved one, end of a relationship, or financial problems
  • A chronic medical condition

Warning signs may include

  • Thinking about and talking about death or suicide
  • Drastic changes in behavior
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Talking about feeling unworthy, helpless, or hopeless or that they’d be better off dead

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, get help right away

  • If you or a loved one is having a mental health or substance use crisis, call or text 988 to connect with 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
  • If you have an immediate, life-threatening emergency, call 911.

What you can do. And what you shouldn’t do.

If you think someone might be suicidal — or if they’ve told you they are — there are a few steps you can take that may help. There are also some things you should avoid saying or doing.

What you can do

  • Take the person seriously. Be calm, open, and know that it’s OK to ask questions and talk about it. Talking openly won’t raise the risk that they’ll carry through.
  • Let them know how much you care. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings, and listen attentively.
  • Help keep them safe by removing things they might use to harm themselves: guns, pills, knives, etc.
  • Encourage them to get help. Offer specific steps they can take, such as calling the National Suicide Prevention line, helping them get to a mental health professional, or connecting them with loved ones.
  • Accept the person’s feelings. You can’t talk them out of what they’re going through.
  • Help the person find resources, and reach out for help yourself if they won’t. Call 911 if you think the person is in immediate danger of suicide.

What you shouldn't do

  • Lecture or shame them.
  • Minimize their despair or try to talk them out of their feelings.
  • Make it be about you. “How could you do this to me?” is not helpful. 
  • Leave the person to fend for themselves.
  • Keep it a secret, even if the person asks you not to tell.
  • Try to handle it alone. This person needs immediate help from a professional.

Mental health support and resources

If you believe you need help right away — for yourself or a loved one — call 911 or use the emergency numbers below.

Substance Use Helpline

Substance Use Helpline — 1-855-780-5955

If you feel that you or a loved one are experiencing signs of addiction, call the confidential helpline to get support, guidance on treatment options, help finding a network provider and answers to your questions.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Get help with crisis intervention, information and referrals to local services for victims of domestic violence and those calling on their behalf.

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat for 24-hour, toll-free, confidential support and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. For TTY users, use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

The Crisis Text Line

The Crisis Text Line — Text “Home” to 741741

The Crisis Text Line is a free resource available 24/7 to help you connect with a crisis counselor.