Learn the warning signs of suicide and what you can do to help yourself and others.
Each year in America more than 40,000 people die by suicide, and 70% of those people tell someone or give warning signs before taking their own life. Stop a Suicide Today can teach you how to recognize the warning signs of suicide in family, friends, co-workers, and patients.
How to Help
It can be difficult to bring up the topic of suicide, but it’s important to know that asking someone if they are suicidal will not put the idea in their head. Instead, it can provide them with the opportunity to tell you how they are truly feeling and to feel understood.
How to start the conversation:
- Mention the things that are concerning you: “You have been acting really down lately” or “You’ve been missing a lot of work and seem distracted when you are at the office.”
- the questions directly: “Have things gotten so desperate, that you are thinking about suicide?” or “Have you ever thought of killing yourself?”
- Listen and remain calm.
- Assure the person that help is available and treatment works.
There is no perfect script for talking to someone about suicide. It is most important to show the person you care by being a good listener and offering to support or accompany them in finding help.
What to Avoid
- Don’t try to cheer the person up, or tell them to snap out of it.
- Don’t assume the situation will take care of itself.
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy.
- Don’t leave the person alone, unless they act in a threatening way. Then, leave and call 9-1-1.
Conversations about mental health and suicide can be tough. If you are helping someone who is dealing with intense psychological pain, you may want to seek support for yourself.
Steps to Seek Help
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
- Bring him or her to a local emergency room or crisis center. Your friend will be more likely to seek help if you accompany him or her and you can provide needed information.
- Call 911 to get someone to the nearest emergency room. Regardless of whether or not the person agrees to an evaluation, an evaluation must occur. It is critical to get them the assessment/treatment they need.
- Contact his or her primary care physician or mental health provider, if known.
If someone is unwilling to accept an evaluation or treatment:
- Call 911 out of the presence of the person.
- Take precautions to consider your own personal safety. It is important not to put yourself in harm's way.
- Remember that suicidal crises do not last forever. Even if someone refuses help, in time they will be grateful for it.
- Be able to provide rationale for calling 911 to health care provider.
What to Expect
Mental health disorders, particularly depression, postpartum depression, and bipolar disorder, which are associated with an increased suicide risk, respond particularly well to treatment. By getting a person the help they need you can dramatically reduce the likelihood of suicide.
Step 1: Mental Health Assessment
When you are concerned about someone, a mental health assessment is needed to determine the seriousness of the situation. During a mental health assessment, the health professional will obtain an overall picture of how well someone feels emotionally and how well they are able to think and reason. In order to gather this information, the health professional may ask a series of questions. They will pay attention to the person’s thinking and reasoning along with their mood and behavior. They will also ask questions about situations going on in the person’s life that are causing stress and emotional pain and specifically about their current or past suicidal thoughts, plans, or behaviors as well as their mental health history.
Step 2: Treatment Plan
Getting someone a mental health evaluation is only the first step of the treatment process. Once they are in the care of a professional, chances for recovery from the mental health crisis increase dramatically.
After talking with, and assessing the person, the healthcare professional will consider the significance of any mental illnesses, physical illnesses and life stressors, and will come up with a treatment plan. Each evaluation will be unique, and will depend upon the information that is shared with the healthcare provider. The circumstances and assessment by the health professional will be included in the treatment process. The person may need to see a therapist regularly, take medication, or even be hospitalized to ensure the person’s safety; family members and friends may also be involved for support.
Step 3: Ongoing Treatment and Support
Mental health treatment is an ongoing process that can be crucial to supporting people during intense times of crisis. Mental health treatment can also be very beneficial to help maintain good mental health over time. Once the health care provider and patient start working together on the treatment plan, they may update the plan as a person’s emotional condition changes.