Preventing Suicide: Tips to Understand Complicated Tragedies

preventing suicide

There has been a string of very public suicides within the last several months, which leaves people feeling sad and uncertain. From Chester Bennington, to Avicii, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, many people are left scratching their heads, wondering what’s going on.

Suicide is a societal problem, affecting not only families and loved ones, but the community as a whole. Most people suffer from depression at some time in their lives. Some people experience it much more severely, and for a longer period of time.

To do our part to help prevent suicides, help ourselves or loved ones feel better, we need to gain a better understanding of the reasons behind it. In this post, we will discuss suicide causes and what you can do.

Suicide Prevention

If You Know Someone in Crisis

Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL)at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. 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 NSPL’s website.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255Veterans Crisis Line 800-273-8255


Suicide is a major public health concern. Over 40,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States; 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.

Signs and Symptoms

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 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 seeking 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 has increased recently. One resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.

Risk Factors

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behavior is complex and there is no single cause. In fact, many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. But people most at risk tend to share certain characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide are:

  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Chronic pain
  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home
  • Having recently been released from prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities

Many people have some of these risk factors but do not attempt suicide. 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.


  1. I just wanted to reinforce the idea that talking to someone who is suicidal about their ideations is more likely to help them than cause more damage. Often times, people in that state feel that no one actually understands just how bad they’re feeling and just having one person reach out and ask the uncomfortable questions in an empathetic way will make a huge difference. I know it’s awkward and uncomfortable to have to bring up such a seemingly taboo topic (even though it absolutely shouldn’t be taboo, it needs to be as acceptable to suffer from mental illness and ask for help as it is it you’re suffering from physical ailments), but please try not to make the person feel ashamed for feeling this low, and definitely don’t minimize the problem they’ve been dealing with because to them, their problem is very real and serious enough that they’re considering ending their life over. A little compassion and time go A long way. Be courteous and Kind and realize they may not be in their usual frame of mind. Tell them that they matter and if you’re able to make the commitment, offer to help them to find mental health resources and just be there for them until they’re out of the woods. If you’re unable to be that person, reach out to someone else and voice your concerns, and then let the suicidal person know you’re thinking about them and offer to check in in a few days.

    Seriously,a little compassion and kindness go a long way


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