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Suicide is preventable

People who are suicidal often say or do things that are signals of their intentions. These warning signs provide a good opportunity to start a conversation, even if it is difficult. You may be unsure of how you can help, or uncertain of whether the person is actually in serious trouble, but asking about their feelings or intentions is an important first step. Talking specifically about suicide does not cause it to happen or plant the idea. Communicating your concern and offering to find help together, could save a life. If you are concerned about someone, don’t hesitate to take action right away!

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Learn the warning signs for suicide.
    People thinking of ending their life often give hints about their intentions. Become familiar with the warning signs and not only take them seriously, but don’t wait to take action.
  2. Reach out and stay involved.
    Withdrawing from friends and family, not returning phone calls, not participating in activities the person previously enjoyed can be warning signs of feeling troubled. Continue to reach out, be persistent and don’t give up. Your efforts let people know you care about them.
  3. Start the conversation.
    Let the person you care about know you are concerned about them. You could say:
    “I am worried about you.”
    “It seems like something is bothering you.”
    “You don’t seem like yourself lately. How can I help?”
  4. Be direct and ask questions; even the ones you may be afraid to ask such as:
    “Are you depressed?”
    “Are you thinking about ending your life?”
    “Do you have a plan for suicide?”
  5. If you think the person is suicidal:
    Stay with them, listen to them and take them seriously. Help them get help. Tell them to call the San Diego Crisis Hotline at (888) 724-7240 to talk to someone about how they are feeling. If you don’t think they are able to do this on their own, then offer to call with them.

Remember, even as a helper, you are not in this alone. You don’t need to provide support all by yourself, but consider yourself the link to getting the person you care about the help they need. Reach out to other friends, family members, or a clergy person, rabbi or other faith leader. If you are concerned about the safety of a young person, encourage them to talk to an adult they trust and let them know that they are not alone. Suggest they call and talk to a counselor on the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Again, if the person you are concerned about, no matter what their age, is scared or may not want to call, offer to call with them. You could save their life!

***Adapted from The San Diego County It’s Up to Us Campaign, at www.Up2SD.org ***

What Are The Warning Signs For Suicide?

Signs Of Crisis

Call 9-1-1, or seek immediate help when you hear or see any one of these behaviors:

  • Someone threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • Someone looking for ways to kill themselves: seeking access to pills, weapons, or other means
  • Someone talking or writing about suicide, or about death and dying when this is out of the ordinary for them

Signs Of Concern

If someone you care about is showing any or a combination of the following behaviors, have them or help them call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255). You could be saving their life!

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped—like there’s no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
  • Someone close to them has died by suicide in the past
  • The person has attempted to kill themselves in the past

Risk and Protective Factors

Suicide is a complex human behavior, with no single determining cause. The factors that affect the likelihood of a person attempting or dying by are known as risk or protective factors, depending on whether they raise or lower the likelihood of suicidal behavior.

Major risk factors for suicide include:

  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Mood disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Access to lethal means

Major protective factors include:

  • Effective mental health care
  • Connectedness
  • Problem-solving skills

To learn more, see SPRC’s Risk and Protective Factors Resource Sheet.



Death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior.

Note: The term “committed” suicide is discouraged because it connotes the equivalent of a crime or sin. The CDC has also deemed “completed suicide” and “successful suicide” as unacceptable. Preferred terms are “death by suicide” or “died by suicide.”   

Suicide attempt:

A non-fatal self-directed potentially injurious behavior with any intent to die as result of the behavior.  A suicide attempt may or may not result in injury.

Suicidal ideation:

Thoughts of suicide. These thoughts can range in severity from a vague wish to be dead to active suicidal ideation with a specific plan and intent.

Unintentional injury:

A fatal or nonfatal injury that was unplanned and not intended to happen.  Causes include a motor vehicle crash, poisoning, fall, fire, and drowning. Unintentional injuries are sometimes referred to as “accidents,” but this term is discouraged since it implies the injury was not preventable.


Interventions designed to stop suicidal behavior before it occurs. These interventions involve reducing the factors that put people at risk for suicide and suicidal behaviors.  They also include increasing the factors that protect people or buffer them from being at risk.


The care of suicidal people by licensed mental health caregivers, health care providers, and other caregivers with individually tailored strategies designed to change the self-injurious or self-directed violent thoughts, behaviors, mood, environment, or chemistry of individuals that increase the risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors, and help them identify and address their emotional, psychological, and physical needs without engaging in self-destructive behaviors.


Actions taken after a suicide has occurred largely to help persons affected by the suicide loss, such as family, friends, and co-workers of the deceased.

***Adapted from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at www.sprc.org