Suicide is among the leading causes of death worldwide: Know the signs and how to get help
Although it is not possible to predict suicide with any certainty, our best tool is recognition of the signs that many people exhibit when contemplating suicide. The following three behaviors should prompt you to seek immediate help for yourself or a loved one:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
If You or Someone You Know Needs Help
- Call 1.800.273.8255 or 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line
- Outside of the U.S., visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources
- Contact your mental health professional
- Call us at McLean at 617.855.3141 for information on admission
If you are suicidal or are a danger to yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or visit your nearest emergency room immediately.
Identifying Those at Risk
Suicide claims more than 45,000 American lives each year—more than the number killed by car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Dost Öngür, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Psychotic Disorders at McLean Hospital, “Suicidal thinking is common and widespread, especially among people with mental illnesses. Yet we don’t have good ways of deciding who is at genuine risk, and who is struggling but who won’t go through with hurting themselves. The reality is that there is no established way of saying this person is at higher risk than that person.”
“90% of people who die by suicide have an existing mental illness or substance misuse problem at the time of their death,” says Öngür. “Mental illness can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate based on gender, age, race or socioeconomic status.”
Beyond the behaviors noted above, these actions may also indicate a serious risk—especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change:
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Talking about losing fear of death/dying
According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, it is important to note that factors identified as increasing risk are not factors that cause or predict a suicide attempt. Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. Protective factors are characteristics that make it less likely that individuals will consider, attempt, or die by suicide.
Protective factors for suicide include:
- Receiving effective mental health care
- Positive connections to family, peers, community, and social institutions, such as marriage and religion, that foster resilience
- The skills and ability to solve problems
Together, we can shine a light on a topic that is often not discussed out of fear and stigma and work to help countless individuals find the help they need.
Read more – Suicide: Know the Signs and What To Do
These organizations also offer suicide prevention resources:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you are suicidal, please call 800.273.TALK (8255). You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline website also offers many resources for those looking for support.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states, with programs and events nationwide.
Samaritans: Massachusetts 24-Hour Crisis HelpLine
A non-denominational, not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide by befriending individuals in crisis and educating the community about effective prevention strategies. The Samaritans provide a free and confidential 24-hour phone befriending line. Call or text the 24/7 statewide Helpline at 877.870.4673.
Stop A Suicide Today
Stop A Suicide Today is a nationwide campaign which aims to empower individuals to help themselves, colleagues, friends, and loved ones who are concerned about or feel suicidal.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center is the only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the implementation of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
This nonprofit organization offers direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis—for the trans community, by the trans community. Trans Lifeline’s hotline is a peer support phone service run by trans people for our trans and questioning peers. Call 877.565.8860 in the U.S.
In addition to the resources above, these organizations offer support pointed specifically toward parents and teens.
Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide – Information for parents
A nonprofit organization that provides specialized training programs, educational information, and resources for teens, parents, and educational leaders with the aim of increasing awareness, reducing the stigma of suicide, and saving lives. They provide information and resources for parents, including information about warning signs, risk factors, and talking to kids about suicide, as well as crisis resources.
Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide – Information for teens
A nonprofit organization that provides specialized training programs, educational information, and resources for teens, parents, and educational leaders with the aim of increasing awareness, reducing the stigma of suicide, and saving lives. Their website provides information and resources for teens, including crisis resources and information on warning signs.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Youth resources
If you are suicidal, please call 800.273.TALK (8255). You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline website also offers a number of resources for those looking for support. They offer information and resources specific to youth, including stories of hope and recovery.
Suicide Prevention Resources Center – Teen resources
SPRC is the only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the implementation of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. Their website provides information and resources specific to adolescents.
Trevor Project – Support for LGBTQ youth
This organization provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people. They provide a number of programs and services, including educational information, resources, and trainings, and are involved in innovative research. They also offer phone and text hotlines.
Youth Suicide Warning Signs
This organization offers information about suicide warning signs to youth, health care professionals, parents/caregivers, and others who have an important role in the life of a young person. Developed by national and international experts, their website provides information on youth suicide warning signs that is rooted in science and clinical practice. They also offer information about how to respond and find help.
Parents and teens may also find these resources helpful:
- What Is Teen Cutting and Self-Injury?
- Addressing the Care of Suicidal Adolescents: What Works and What Doesn’t
- Depression and Suicide in Adolescents: A McLean Researcher Searches for New Answers
Resources for Military & Veterans
Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource, part of the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, that’s available to anyone, even if you’re not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. The caring, qualified responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping veterans of all ages and circumstances. Call 800.273.8255 or 988 then press 1 or text 838255.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Suicide prevention resources
VA prioritizes preventing suicide among all veterans—whether or not they seek care within the VA health care system. Find information, statistics, support resources, and how to get help.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Veterans resources
For those members of the military and veterans, crises can be heightened by their experiences during service. The national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline website includes a range of information to help before, during, or after military service.
Resources for Health Care Professionals
Suicide-Focused Assessment and Treatment Course
This annual course hosted by McLean Hospital and the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences offers the latest updates for professionals. Continuing education credits are available for a variety of disciplines.
Current Status of Suicide-Focused Assessment and Treatment
This online resource was developed with the mission of providing clinicians with information regarding the current status of suicide-focused assessment and treatment. The information has been compiled from a review of available evidence from existing literature and supplemented by clinical consensus.