Suicide Prevention: What You Can Do to Help

By: Michaela Patoilo

With the recent suicides of beloved fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, necessary talks have opened up surrounding how our perception of peoples’ lives can be drastically different from their inner realities. Their unexpected deaths clearly conveyed to the world that no one is immune to suicide, regardless of how much money someone has or how famous they are. The same week as their deaths, government statistics were released showing significant increases in suicide rates in almost every state from 1999 to 2016. Clearly a growing problem, suicide prevention is an effort that requires all people to come together to make a difference.

While people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities can be at risk for suicide, there are a number of factors that may increase a person’s suicide risk. Risk factors do not always mean a person will attempt suicide, but often increase their chances.

Main risk factors include:

  • A previous suicide attempt
  • Depression or another mental illness
  • A family history of suicide, violence (including abuse), or mental health disorders
  • A substance abuse disorder
  • Being between the ages of 15-24 or over 60 years old

Of course, it is important to know who is at risk of attempting suicide. However, one of the most important ways we can help prevent suicides is knowing the warning signs that a person may be contemplating ending their own life and need more immediate help.

Suicide Warning Signs:

  • Feelings of being a burden
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased isolation
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased substance use
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Increases in anxiety or anger/rage
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die
  • Looking for access to lethal means

If you believe a loved one or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you can find some tips below on how you can help keep them safe:

  1. Ask – Don’t be afraid to ask family, friends, or anyone else if they are thinking about suicide. While many people believe asking can induce suicidal thoughts, it is just a common myth. Asking someone about suicide is not dangerous. If they say yes, ask if they have a plan, since it is easier to help someone if you know the specifics.
  2. Be Present While your first instinct may be to offer advice or try to cheer them up, the best way to support your friend or loved one in crisis is to simply be there with them and listen to what they need. You may feel like you are intruding, but your presence reminds them they are loved and important to you.
  3. Take Mentions of Death Seriously Whether online or in person, any references to death or the desire to be dead should be taken seriously. Even if your friend is known for their humor in tough situations, casual mentions of death should not be taken lightly. Ask follow-up questions, and if you feel they are not safe, seek professional assistance immediately.
  4. Seek Professional Help – If you feel your loved one is in danger, you can start by helping them reach out to a suicide prevention hotline, such as calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contacting the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, both available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, you can take them to a hospital emergency room for in-person assistance or call 9-1-1.
  5. Stay Connected – Even after connecting your friend or loved one with professional help, it is always a good idea to stay in touch. Follow up with them to see how they are doing and what steps are being taken to prevent future suicidal ideation. A strong support system fosters a smoother recovery process.


For more information about how you can help save a life, please visit: If you are in crisis or know someone who is, please contact:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:

Talk: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or chat online at:


Crisis Text Line:

            Text: HOME to 741741


Additional Resources:

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