Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds and within the top ten leading causes of death for all ages. It is vitally important to learn the warning signs and how to help someone who may be at risk for suicide. Research shows that most people who attempt suicide give some sort of clue before they make an attempt. Therefore, understanding the words and/or actions of someone considering suicide can save a life.
How can you be aware of warning signs of suicide in those in your life?
- Listen to those around you. People who are considering suicide often talk about it. If someone says they’re feeling trapped, are a burden to others, or have no reason to live, ask them whether they’ve thought about suicide. Take the conversation seriously and help your friend or family member get to resources that could save their life.
- Be aware of others’ moods. If someone in your life has lost interest in things that they used to care about, or seems to be feeling unhappy, irritable, or angry, they may be struggling with depression.
- Notice people’s behaviors. If someone is acting recklessly, increasing their use of drugs or alcohol, has unusual sleep habits, or is looking for means to kill themselves, it’s time to have a conversation about suicide. Asking someone about suicide won’t put the idea in their mind, but it could be your chance to help connect them to resources they need.
How do you talk to someone about suicide? MindWise Innovations has developed the acronym ACT as a simple way for people to remember how to respond when someone opens up to you about suicidal thoughts. ACT stands for Acknowledge, Care, Tell.
- Acknowledge. Validate rather than dismiss their thoughts and feelings. It can be difficult for someone to bring up suicidal thoughts, and if you don’t take them seriously, they may shut down and not come to you again.
- Care. Show that you care by listening carefully and taking what they say seriously. It might be hard for you to hear, but listen without judgment. You can’t help them if you don’t know what they’re experiencing. It might also be beneficial to ask them how you can help. You may not know what to do, and they may not either, but offering to help and asking what they need can be a great first step in expressing you care.
- Tell. Tell a trusted adult or mental health professional about their struggles and encourage your friend, family member, or coworker to seek treatment.
Suicide is often caused by untreated behavioral health disorders that could be managed if the individual receives help. Whether you’re close with the person in distress or not, reach out and offer assistance- you don’t know how much they might need you to do so. For more information about recognizing when someone is at risk of suicide and ways you can help, visit StopASuicide.org.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text “Home” to 741741.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been edited and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.