NIMH Answers Questions About Suicide

NIMH Answers Questions About Suicide

What are some of the risk factors for suicide?

Risk factors vary with age, gender, or ethnic group and may change over time, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Some factors that increase an individual’s risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors are:

  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Chronic pain
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Firearms in the home
  • Having recently been released from jail or prison
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others, such as family members or peers
  • It is important to note that many people who have these risk factors are not suicidal.

How common is suicide in children and teens?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10–24. Although these numbers may make suicide seem common, it is still a rare event.

Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are more common than suicide deaths and are signs of extreme distress. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are not harmless bids for attention and should not be ignored.

What are the warning signs?
The following are some of the signs you might notice in yourself or a friend that may be reason for concern:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill oneself
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online
  • Buying a gun, or stockpiling pills
  • Feeling empty, hopeless, or feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain ÊTalking about being a burden to others ÊIncreasing the use of alcohol or drugs ÊActing anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly ÊSleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from family or friends or feeling isolated ÊShowing rage or talking about seeking revenge ÊDisplaying extreme mood swings
  • Saying good-bye to loved ones, putting affairs in order

Seeking help is a sign of strength; if you are concerned, go with your instincts and seek professional help.
Reaching out to a friend you are concerned about is also a sign of strength.

What if someone seems suicidal on social media?
Many social media outlets have ways to report suicidal content and get help for the content creator. Each social media site has a different procedure, so search the site’s help page for assistance.

What if I want to write a story about suicide?
Great idea! Here are suggestions for reporting on suicide:

What can I do myself or someone else?
Immediate action is very important. Here are a few resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
1-800-273-TALK (8255), confidential help 24-hours-a-day. You can also visit the Lifeline’s website at

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1

Crisis Text Line: text START to 741-741

HealthReach, information available in multiple

Help for Mental Illnesses:
National Institute of Mental Health web page

Treatment Referral Routing Service:
1-800-662-HELP (4357), funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

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