Warning Signs of Someone Considering Suicide
Any one of these symptoms does not necessarily mean the person is suicidal, but several
of these symptoms may signal a need for help:
Remember: Eight out of ten suicidal persons give some sign of their intentions. People
who talk about suicide, threaten to commit suicide, or call suicide crisis centers are
30 times more likely than average to kill themselves.
What To Do If You Think Someone Is Suicidal
The Statistics of Suicide
Although they may not call prevention centers, suicidal people usually do seek help;
for example, nearly three-fourths of all suicide victims visit a doctor in the four
months before their deaths, and half in the month before.
Helping a Suicidal Person
No single therapeutic approach is suitable for all suicidal persons or suicidal
tendencies. The most common ways to treat underlying illnesses associated with suicide
are with medication, talk therapy or a combination of the two.
Cognitive (talk therapy) and behavioral (changing behavior) therapies aim at relieving
the despair of suicidal patients by showing them other solutions to their problems and
new ways to think about themselves and their world. Behavioral methods, such as
training in assertiveness, problem-solving, social skills, and muscle relaxation, may
reduce depression, anxiety, and social ineptitude.
Cognitive and behavioral homework assignments are planned in collaboration with the
patient and explained as experiments that will be educational even if they fail. The
therapist emphasizes that the patient is doing most of the work, because it is
especially important for a suicidal person not to see the therapist as necessary for
Recent research strongly supports the use of medication to treat the underlying
depression associated with suicide. Antidepressant medication acts on chemical pathways
of the brain related to mood. There are many very effective antidepressants. The two
most common types are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic
antidepressants (TCAs). Other new types of antidepressants (e.g. alpha-2 antagonist,
selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and aminoketones), and an older
class, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), are also prescribed by some doctors.
Antidepressant medications are not habit-forming. Although some symptoms such as
insomnia, often improve within a week or two, it may take three or four weeks before
you feel better; the full benefit of medication may require six to eight weeks of
treatment. Sometimes changes need to be made in dosage or medication type before
improvements are noticed. It is usually recommended that medications be taken for at
least four to nine months after the depressive symptoms have improved. People with
chronic depression may need to stay on medication to prevent or lessen further
People taking antidepressants should be monitored by a doctor who knows about treating
clinical depression to ensure the best treatment with the fewest side effects. It is
also very important that your doctor be informed about all other medicines that are
taken, including vitamins and herbal supplements, in order to help avoid dangerous
interactions. Alcohol or other drugs can interact negatively with antidepressant
Do not discontinue medication without discussing the decision with your doctor.
Resources in Your Community
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 1-800-SUICIDE.
National Mental Health Association
2001 N. Beauregard Street, 12th Floor
Alexandria, VA 22311
Mental Health Resource Center 800/969-NMHA
TTY Line 800/433-5959
This will connect you with a crisis center in your area.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Association of Suicidology
Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network
NMHA's Campaign for America's Mental Health works to raise awareness that mental
illnesses are common, real and treatable illnesses and ensure that those most at-risk
receive proper, timely and effective treatment.