Family Health, Your Health tlong05 | 8 years ago

Understanding Suicide and How to Help Someone in Crisis

While discussing suicide is not as taboo of a subject today as it was 20 or 30 years ago, the rates of suicide are still on the rise. According to the American Association of Suicidology, someone commits suicide every 14 minutes and it is the leading cause of death for people 15 to 24 years old.

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Suicide

After a suicide or suicide attempt, loved ones often express disbelief or frustration that they could have done something to prevent the event, if only they had observed signs that the person was suicidal. While the warning signs of suicide vary from person to person, there are certain signs that are common for someone contemplating suicide, including:
  • Threatening to hurt or kill himself or herself
  • Looking for ways to kill himself or herself; seeking access to pills, weapons or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting recklessly, like there’s no way out
  • Increasing alcohol use
  • Withdrawing from family, friends or society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • No sense of purpose in life

Helping Someone Who Is Threatening Suicide

According to Alex Gnilka, PhD, director of Carolinas Healthcare System Employee Assistance Program, if you suspect someone may be contemplating suicide, it is important to ask them about their suicidal thoughts. Often people are afraid to discuss suicide because they are not sure how to help if someone is at risk. A common fear and myth is that asking someone about suicide will encourage them to attempt it. If you encounter someone threatening suicide, remember the following:
  • Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don't dare him or her to do it.
  • Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you and the person you're trying to help.
  • Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
  • Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental illness or substance use disorder, please call our Behavioral Health Help Line at 704-444-2400 or 800-418-2065. Our staff of masters-level mental health professionals and registered nurses, are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. To learn more about our programs, please visit