Suicide Prevention

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2023

If you or someone you know is in crisis or considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 988, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or use the Lifeline online chat.1

Suicide facts

Suicide is among the leading causes of death in the United States. For people ages 10 to 34 in the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death.2

Experts use several different terms to talk about suicide:2

  • Suicide is death caused by self injury with the intent to die as a result of the action.
  • A suicide attempt is also caused by self injury, but it is not fatal. An attempt may or may not result in injury.
  • Suicidal ideation includes thoughts of suicide.

Risk factors

A combination of factors may lead to someone considering suicide. Known risk factors for suicide include:3

  • A family history of suicide
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Legal problems
  • Job problems or loss
  • Access to drugs or guns
  • A chronic illness or medical condition
  • Drug or alcohol use disorder
  • Mental health condition, such as depression
  • Bullying
  • A personal history of abuse or trauma
  • Chronic stress
  • Recent loss

Suicide is an important and often neglected subject for people with chronic illness. Research shows that rates of mental health conditions for those with a chronic illness or medical condition are greater than for those without chronic illness. If you or someone you know has a chronic health condition, knowing the warning signs is valuable.4

Protective factors

There are many things that can help protect people against suicide and suicidal thoughts. These range from the individual and relationship levels to the community and society levels. All are equally important.3

On the individual and relationship levels, protective factors that may help prevent suicide include:3

  • Having good coping skills
  • Having an identified reason for living
  • Feeling connected to others
  • Having support from family and friends

On the community and society levels, protective factors against suicide include:3

  • Feeling connected to social institutions like school, work, and community
  • Access to high-quality healthcare
  • Limited access to things that could harm, like firearms and drugs
  • Cultural, religious, or moral objections to suicide

Warning signs

According to recent studies, nearly 5 percent of American adults over the age of 18 have had suicidal thoughts. Warning signs of a suicide attempt may include:2,5,6

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Increase in risk-taking, impulsive, or reckless behavior
  • Threats or comments about wanting to die
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Severe mood swings
  • Increase or new drug use
  • Putting affairs in order
  • Giving away possessions
  • Talking or writing about death
  • Efforts to find needed tools like toxins, weapons, or firearms
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • A switch from highly emotional moods to calm (this could suggest the person is no longer worried about their struggles due to having a suicide plan)

What can you do to help?

If you are worried about a loved one or friend, the best thing you can do for them is listen. First, have an open conversation:7

  • Talk in private.
  • Listen.
  • Tell them that you care.
  • Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide.

If your friend or loved one tells you they are thinking about suicide:7

  • Take it seriously.
  • Stay with them.
  • Remove any means, like guns or drugs.
  • Call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Drive or escort them to the emergency room if necessary.

Resources

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988, call 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7), or use the online chat.1

The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine: Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) (M–F, 10 AM – 10 PM ET), email helpline@nami.org, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640.8

The Crisis Text Line: Text "HOME" to 741-741 to reach a trained crisis counselor.9

For veterans: Call 988 and press 1 (24/7), text 838255, or use the online chat.10

LGBTQ+-affirming services: Call 1-866-488-7386 (24/7), text “START” to 678-678 (24/7), or chat online.11

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