In the United States, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death. In 2020, nearly 46,000 died by suicide, and the number of attempts exceeded 1 million.
Often, the signs of suicide go unrecognized until it’s too late. What’s more, even if you do suspect that someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to help them.
Nonetheless, suicide is preventable, and it’s up to all of us to help care for our fellow community members. Here, we’ve outlined some of the best ways to prevent suicide according to experts, as well as some important suicide prevention resources
Know the Warning Signs and Risk Factors
Being able to recognize when individuals may be having suicidal thoughts or actively planning to attempt suicide is the first step to being able to intervene. Risk factors for suicide include:
Previous suicide attempt
Disordered mental health (particularly mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder)
Increased alcohol and/or drug use
Becoming more withdrawn or socially isolated
Dramatic mood changes
Feelings of being trapped or being a burden on others
Know How To Respond
If you suspect that someone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation, experts recommend following this five-step framework:
- Ask. Although suicide may be uncomfortable to discuss, asking in a direct and non-judgmental way and then listening to what they have to say can be extremely helpful in acknowledging their pain and starting the healing process.
- Be there. Social connection is a protective factor against suicide. However you can show support—whether through your physical presence, talking, or other forms of outreach—can potentially help decrease their sense of hopelessness and isolation, both of which are contributing factors to suicide.
- Keep them safe. If you can, try to determine whether they have a plan, and do your best to eliminate their access to that method or means. This might mean putting items like firearms or medications away where they’re inaccessible, or finding emergency help for the person in question.
- Help them connect. Ongoing support in the form of community resources, mental health care, and social networks can help reduce an individual’s risk of suicide. Introduce them to the 988 Lifeline and other resources, and consider helping them develop a safety plan in the event that they have suicidal thoughts again in the future.
- Follow up. Even something as simple as a note, text message, or call can go a long way toward letting someone know that you care, and reducing their risk for suicide.
RADIAS Health provides person-centered integrated healthcare services to people experiencing mental illness, substance use, or co-occurring disorders. Our behavioral health services are delivered by compassionate, skilled health care and support staff. In addition, our care includes supplementary services such as case management, supportive housing, homeless services, residential services, outpatient DBT treatment, and more. If you or someone you know could benefit from our mission, contact us today or consider donating!