Suicide: Warning Signs, Fast Facts, and Risk Factors
The most important fact to know: Suicide is preventable.
Every 16.2 minutes, one person dies of suicide — which means that every year we have the chance to save approximately 30,000 lives. Key to saving these lives is understanding that it’s often a combination of factors (versus one sole reason) that lead to suicide. If every suicide on average affects at least 6 other people, that means the potential to better the lives of 210,000 Americans in the next year. That’s roughly the population of Tacoma, Washington.
In order to prevent suicide, we first have to learn how to recognize the warning signs and risk factors of suicide.
Suicide Risk Factors
Risk factors for suicide are internal or external conditions that increase the likelihood of a suicide attempt. This list is adapted directly from the list developed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Consider each factor if you suspect someone you know is at risk.
Substance use problems
Chronic pain or other serious health condition
Traumatic brain injury
Several circumstances in a person’s world can increase their likelihood of a suicide attempt. These include:
Access to lethal means
Stressful life events or major life changes
Exposure to suicide, including loss of a loved one or graphic portrayal in media
Historical factors in a person’s life are generally defined as personal connections to suicide or trauma. Three key risk factors experts and mental health professionals look for are:
Previous suicide attempts
Family history of suicide
Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma
Suicide Warning Signs
Look for these warning signs if you’re concerned that someone you know is at risk of suicide. Nearly all people who die by suicide show at least one of these signs. This list is also adapted directly from the list developed by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Suicidal Behavior: What They Say
A person with suicidal thoughts may threaten suicide by talking about:
Killing themselves - "I think about all the time about ending my life."
Feeling hopeless - "There's no point in trying."
Having no reason to live - "I don't feel like a reason to go on."
Being a burden to others - "All I do is hurt other people"
Feeling trapped - "I don't know what to do anymore. There's no way out."
Unbearable pain (physical or emotional) - "I just want all this pain to go away."
Suicidal Behavior: What They Do
A person who is suicidal might:
Start using more alcohol and drugs
Look for ways to end their lives, including online searches for possible methods
Withdraw from activities
Isolate from family, friends, and loved ones
Sleep too much or too little
“Say their goodbyes” to others
Give away valued possessions
Suicidal Behavior: How They Feel
A person actively thinking about suicide might show that they feel:
How you can help prevent suicide?
If you’re concerned that someone may attempt to take their life, take your concerns seriously. You can:
Encourage them to reach out for help, including contacting Crisis Text Line at 741741 in the United States or 686868 in Canada.
Text Crisis Text Line on their behalf at 741741 (in the United States) or 686868 (in Canada)
If you believe the person is at critical and immediate risk, call 911.
Interested in helping those at risk for suicide? Learn more about becoming a volunteer crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line.
Download a printable version of this page as a PDF.
|American Foundation for Suicide Prevention||For: All Ages | Website | Advocacy | Provides resources for suicide prevention, grief support and education for individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts/feelings.|
|Facebook: Reporting Suicidal Content||For: All Ages | Website | Service | The “Report Suicidal Content” page on Facebook for third-party texters.|
|Jed Foundation||For: Teens | Website | Purpose: Informative | Empowers teens and young adults with the skills and support to grow into healthy adults|
|Know the Signs||For: All Ages | Website | Support/Informative | Offers an interactive tool for third parties to help recognize the signs of suicidal ideation and helpful phrases for talking to someone about suicide.|
|Military Help Line||For: Adults | Website | Service | Dial (888) 457-4838 or text MIL1 to 839863 to receive 24/7 confidential crisis intervention focused on military-specific issues.|
|My 3 App||For: Adults & Teens | App | Support | Helps create a safety plan for those experiencing suicidal thoughts, including who to contact.|
|Now Matters Now||All ages l Website l Informative l An online resource that provides support for coping with suicidal thoughts through teaching skills based on Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Includes videos of personal stories.|
|National Suicide Prevention Lifeline||For: All Ages | Website and Hotline | Service | Toll-free 24/7 confidential suicide prevention and crisis hotline.|
|SAVE||For: All Ages | Website | Informative & Advocacy | Provides support groups for suicide loss survivors, as well as resources about suicide and finding help for yourself or others.|
|Suicide Loss Survivors - Suicidology||For: All Ages | Website | Informative| Provides free, online resources for suicide loss or attempt survivors, as well as those looking to help a survivor of suicide.|
|The Buddy Project||For: Adults & Teens | Website | Support | Aims to prevent suicide and provide self-harm alternatives by pairing people through social media as buddies and raising awareness for mental health.|