Suicide Doesn’t Have to Happen
How You Can Help Prevent Suicide
Use the information provided to learn more about how to prevent suicide by identifying the risk factors, understanding the warning signs and finding out how to help someone who may be suicidal.
While a suicide attempt may occur without any warning, in most cases individuals who are contemplating suicide exhibit some warning signs about their pain and intent. By learning the most common warning signs, you may be able to intervene and save the life of someone contemplating suicide. Warning signs of suicide include:
- Threatening to hurt/kill oneself
- Seeking access to lethal means
- Increased alcohol or drug use and/or risky activities
- Expressing guilt and shame or feeling like a burden to others
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Abrupt changes in mood and behavior
- Withdrawal from family and friends or saying goodbye/giving away important items
- Feeling or expressing extreme psychological pain and distress
- Talking, writing, or posting on social media about death, dying, or suicide
Suicide Risk Factors
Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behavior is complex with many contributing factors. Since there is no single cause, learning the risk factors that may increase the likelihood of an attempt can save a life. The main risk factors for suicide are:
- Prior suicide attempts
- Abuse of alcohol and other drugs
- Access to lethal means (especially firearms)
- Social Isolation
- Chronic physical illness or pain
- Trauma history (abuse, violence, neglect, suicide loss survivor)
- Untreated mental health condition (depression and mood disorders are most commonly associated with suicidal thinking and behavior)
How to Help?
Ask About Suicide:
If you notice warning signs of suicide or concerning language, take them seriously and ASK. Research tells us that asking does NOT increase someone’s risk, in fact, asking directly about suicide reduces stigma and feels relieving for someone having suicidal thoughts.
Keep Them Safe:
Reducing access to highly lethal items (firearms/weapons, medication, drugs/alcohol) or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
Create a safe space with your presence and listen carefully to what the person is thinking and feeling. Acknowledge feelings without judgment and try to understand underlying emotional struggles. Research tells us that acknowledging suicide can decrease suicidal thoughts.
Make space and time for ongoing conversations after an emotional crisis. It can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person through phone calls or in person visits.
What NOT to do
Do not keep it a secret
Do not sidestep the issue or treat it lightly
Do not leave the person alone
Do not offer simple solutions
Do not judge
Do not offer or suggest drugs or alcohol
Do not try to be a therapist, get professional help
Suicide Prevention Resources
General Resources and Information:
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: SPRC provides technical assistance, training, and materials to increase the knowledge and expertise of suicide prevention practitioners and other professionals serving people at risk for suicide.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: AFSP is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education, and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
- Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention: The Office of Suicide Prevention serves as a clearinghouse for the latest national trends, risk factors, prevention plans, etc. to help recognize and respond to people who are at risk.
- Man Therapy: Part of a multi-agency effort, including the Colorado Office of Suicide Prevention, Carson J Spencer Foundation and Cactus, Man Therapy™ is a resource for working-aged men (25-54 years old) who account for the largest number of suicide deaths in Colorado.
Resources for Loved Ones:
- Safe2Tell Parent Resource Center: Safe2Tell is Colorado’s anonymous reporting system. Tips can be reported by anyone worried about the safety of another.
- Simple Tips for Starting the Conversation around Mental Health and Suicide: The goal of the Let’s Talk Colorado media campaign is to reduce the stigma around mental illness so that people who need treatment are more likely to seek it.
- Strategies and Self-Care for Support Systems: Suicide is Different is a resource that includes information about balancing trust and safety, setting boundaries, how to realign priorities, coping with changes and grief, and self-care.
- Resources for Parents and Trusted Adults: Robbie’s Hope is a movement of teens working to reduce teen suicide and provide resources to communities.
Resources for Providers:
- Suicide Prevention Resource for Primary Care Providers: resources from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Office of Suicide Prevention
- Zero Suicide: A framework for health and behavioral health care systems designed to improve suicide care.
Resources for Youth:
- Help a friend: Tips for Teens in Suicide Prevention: Offers youth specific strategies to support someone who is struggling.
- The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.
- Safe2Tell (1-877-542-7233): Safe2Tell is Colorado’s anonymous reporting system. Tips can be reported by anyone worried about the safety of another.
- Safety on Social Media: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website shares information about how to report concerns about suicide on social media. In Colorado, you can also report concerns directly using Safe2Tell.
Want to learn more about suicide?
Looking for more information on suicide or suicidal ideation? Learn about warning signs, risk factors and tips and tools from a variety of experts on suicide prevention and mental health awareness.
Ready to Help?
Suicide prevention is something we can all take part in. Take a course and use the resources below to learn how to be a lifeline and be able to help when someone is in crisis.
Register for Question. Persuade. Refer. Training
Register for Mental Health First Aid Training