Suicide: Talking About It Can Be the First Step to Prevention

Considering that suicide is the third-leading cause of death for Pennsylvania teens and young adults, it’s important to recognize warning signs, take them seriously and know where to turn for help.

If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, one of the most important things you can do is talk about it with him or her. Mental health groups note that it’s a myth that talking about suicide will give someone the idea to carry it out. Quite the opposite: Giving a suicidal person the chance to talk about difficulties openly can be one of the most helpful things you do.

Talking about suicide doesn’t cause it. Talking about suicide can prevent it.

While not everyone who considers suicide shows warning signs, up to 75 percent of people who attempt suicide talk about their thoughts, feelings and plans before the act, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Talking openly with them about those thoughts and keeping them away from lethal means like guns can save lives.

Suicide warning signs

According to AFSP, the signs can show in a person’s words, actions, and moods. Be concerned:

If a person TALKS about

  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Experiencing unbearable pain
  • Having no reason to live
  • Killing themselves

If a person’s ACTIONS include

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online for materials or means
  • Acting recklessly
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression

If a person’s MOOD shows

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation
  • Anxiety

Being a supportive listener can go a long way toward helping a suicidal person stay alive and seek help, which is available at your fingertips. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, or text the crisis text line at 741-741. Lifeline, funded by the federal government, is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free, confidential emotional support 24/7. It will immediately connect you to counselors at the nearest crisis center. Many Pennsylvania hospitals also offer or host support groups.

A helpful online resource for teens is TeenCentral, an online resource powered by KidsPeace, a private charity dedicated to serving the behavioral and mental health needs of children, families and communities.

KidsPeace Psychiatric Hospital, located in Orefield, Pennsylvania, is a one-of-a-kind hospital, dedicated to healing and addressing the unique mental and behavioral health care needs of children and young adults experiencing severe crises.

TeenCentral offers support for teens in crisis or in search of factual information on anything from bullying to substance abuse to running away from home.

To help someone you love who is considering suicide, TeenCentral recommends you:

  • Let them know that these feelings are not permanent and can pass
  • Ask specifically if they are thinking of killing themselves
  • Stay with them and listen to them non-judgmentally
  • Remove unsafe objects
  • Encourage them to seek professional help and offer to go with them
  • Give them the National Suicide Hotline number and encourage them to call

There’s no argument that the situation can be frightening—for you and your loved one. But don’t be afraid to start the conversation and get on the road to healing.