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While there is no single cause for suicide, there are risk factors and warning signs that can increase the likelihood of an attempt. Conditions such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse, especially when unaddressed, can increase the risk that someone may consider suicide.

What Should I Look Out For?

Some behaviors may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased or seems related to a painful event, loss or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do. Examples include the following:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Exhibiting extreme mood swings.

If someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 and press 1 for the Military Crisis Line.

How Should I Talk to Someone Who May Be Contemplating Suicide?

Trust your instincts and talk to your loved one if you think they may be having thoughts of suicide. Mention the warning signs that prompted you to talk to them, stay calm, and let them know you are there to help. When talking to someone, do the following:

  • Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen and allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad, and don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy but seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer superficial reassurance.
  • Never dare them to act on suicidal feelings.

Most important, be prepared to act. Remove any lethal means, such as weapons, drugs or medications, and do not leave the at-risk person alone.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 pecializes in suicide prevention and crisis intervention and offers 24/7 assistance.