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Stopping A Suicide Before It’s Too Late

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By Melissa Howard.

Suicide is a tragedy but it doesn’t have to happen. You can help prevent it but in order to stop a suicide, you must know both warning signs and risk factors, and how to take action.

Do You Know The Warning Signs of Suicide?

A person’s desire to commit suicide can be difficult to assess but there are numerous signs and factors. If you see enough of these in a loved one you know well, you should take action. Warning signs include:

  • Psychological pain, such as unprocessed grief. 
  • A sense of hopelessness or despair. If you hear someone saying, “what’s the point of living,” that can be a red flag.
  • Feeling helpless or trapped.
  • Withdrawal and isolation.
  • People who say they won’t be a “burden” to others for much longer.
  • People preparing a suicide plan, such as buying weapons or stocking up on pills, writing a goodbye letter, etc.

It’s important to look for clues in what they say, do, and feel. Are they sleeping most the time? Have you been struggling to locate and connect with them as you have in the past? Are they engaging in risky behaviors? All of these clues can point to a serious problem.

What Are The Risk Factors?

People with certain histories and life events are more likely to consider suicide than others. They include:

  • People with depression and other mental illnesses.
  • Anyone who has experienced trauma, grief, or other life-changing tragedies.
  • People with chronic pain or disease.
  • Those who have a family history of suicide.
  • Anyone who has attempted suicide in the past.
  • Those who engage in violent behavior.
  • People with substance abuse disorders.

For a complete list, see the risk factors page at the Defense Suicide Prevention Office.

Substance Abuse and Suicide

According to Psychiatric Times, people with substance abuse disorders are “six times more likely to report a lifetime suicide attempt than those without a substance use disorder.” If someone has one or more of the risk factors and warning signs mentioned in addition to a substance abuse problem, they are at a very high risk of suicide. Get them help immediately.

How To Help Someone In Crisis

If you are contemplating thoughts of suicide, reach out to a crisis hotline in your area right away. View Canada’s Crisis Support website or go to the nearest emergency room.

The most important thing to remember about helping a loved one who is at risk is that you shouldn’t be impatient, upset, or unkind. Show your concern but be careful not to push too hard. You don’t want to put more pressure or stress on them. What they need is someone who can listen, not someone that pushes advice.

Once you listen, share your concerns with them. You should ask them, in a caring and loving way, if they have made a suicide plan or get someone else to ask if you can’t.

It’s of utmost importance to keep them safe as you are having this conversation. If they seem like they are in imminent danger, you may want to bring them to the hospital. Don’t just drive there and drop them off. Learn all the steps you should take to ensure they stay safe at the hospital from

Still nervous about talking to them? That’s understandable. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention has an in-depth article outlining the five steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal and how they can be successful in prevention.

By understanding the warning signs and risk factors, you can determine if someone you love is considering suicide. Address the issue with care, love, and safety in mind. Your actions could save a life.

For more information visit


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