Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2022 | Last updated: September 2022
If you or someone you know is in crisis or considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 9-8-8 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or use the Lifeline online chat.1
Suicide is among the leading causes of death in the United States. For people in the US ages 10 to 34, suicide is the second leading cause of death.2
There are different terms used when talking about suicide:
- Suicide is death caused by self injury with the intent to die as a result of the action.
- A suicide attempt is also caused by self injury, but is not fatal. An attempt may or may not result in injury.
- Suicidal ideation includes thoughts of suicide.
A combination of factors may lead to someone considering suicide. Known risk factors for suicide may include:3
- A family history of suicide
- Previous suicide attempts
- Legal problems
- Job problems or loss
- Access to drugs or guns
- A chronic illness or medical condition
- Drug or alcohol use disorder
- Mental illness, such as depression
- A personal history of abuse or trauma
- Chronic stress
- Recent loss
Suicide is an important and often neglected subject for people with chronic illness. Research shows that rates of mental illness for those with a chronic illness or medical condition are greater than those without chronic illness. If you or someone you know has a chronic health condition, knowing the warning signs is valuable.4
According to recent studies, nearly 5 percent of American adults over the age of 18 have had suicidal thoughts. Some warning signs of suicide include:2,5,6
- Aggressive behavior
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Increase in risk taking, impulsive, or reckless behavior
- Threats or comments about wanting to die
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Severe mood swings
- Increase or new drug use
- Putting affairs in order
- Giving away possessions
- Talking or writing about death
- Efforts to find needed tools like toxins, weapons, or firearms
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- A switch from highly emotional moods to calm (this could suggest the person is no longer worried about their struggles due to a suicide plan)
What can you do to help?
If you are worried about a loved one or friend, the best thing you can do for them is listen. First, have an open conversation:7
- Talk in private.
- Tell them that you care.
- Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide.
If your friend or loved one tells you they are thinking about suicide:7
- Take it seriously.
- Stay with them.
- Remove any means, like guns or drugs.
- Call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 9-8-8 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Drive or escort them to the emergency room if necessary.
The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 9-8-8 or 1-800-273-8255 (available 24/7), or use the online chat.1
The National Alliance on Mental Illness HelpLine: Call 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) (M–F, 10 AM – 10 PM ET), email email@example.com, or text “NAMI” to 741-741 for 24/7 crisis support via text message.8
For Veterans: Call 9-8-8 (available 24/7) and press 1, text 838-255, or use the online chat.9
LGBTQ affirming services: Call 1-866-488-7386 (24/7), text “Start” to 678-678 (24/7), or chat online.10