Suicide: Know the Warning Signs, Know How to Help

Suicide is a leading cause of death in America and can be preventable if everyone can recognize the warning signs, knows how to help, and becomes familiar with resources available in the community.

According to data from August 2020 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 say they've considered suicide because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Know the warning signs

Contact a mental health professional or hotline if you or someone you know is exhibiting one or more of these behaviors: ‚Äč

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped, like there’s no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes

Learn to recognize when dangerous thoughts or behaviors become an emergency. Call 911 if: 

  • Someone is threatening to hurt or kill themselves or talking about wanting to die.
  • Someone looking for ways to kill themselves by seeking access to weapons or other lethal items (this can be online searches or physically looking for something in the moment of despair).

If any of these warning signs emerge, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests five steps you can take to #BeThe1 to help:

1. Ask: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.

2. Keep them safe: Reducing access to dangerous items or places is an important part of suicide prevention.

3. Be there: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.

4. Help them connect: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741) in your phone, so it’s there when you need it. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.

5. Stay connected: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

Nearly one in five American adults struggle with some form of mental illness, and emergency department visits for children who attempt suicide or had thoughts of suicide have almost doubled in the last several years.

In the event of an emergency, you can find help by calling 911, going to the nearest emergency department or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Anyone who thinks they're having a medical emergency should not hesitate to seek care. Federal law ensures that anyone who comes to the emergency department is treated and stabilized, and that their insurance provides coverage based on symptoms, not a final diagnosis. 

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