About Suicide

Unfortunately, we do not have a clear answer about what causes suicide. The theory which we ascribe to is the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide which suggests that suicide is a three part interaction between feelings of social disconnection (thwarted belongingness), feelings of being a burden to oneself or others (perceived burdensomeness), and the ability to overcome the fear of death (fearlessness about death). Suicide is not selfish, cowardly, or a choice. It is the result of intense psychological distress caused by a psychological disorder. People who die by suicide often do not want to die, and many people who survive attempts report regretting making the attempt almost immediately after they made it. As a close friend or family member, you play an important role in preventing suicide. Therefore, it is important that you consider the warning signs of suicide if you observe abnormal behavior in your loved one. Remember, however, that regardless of the outcome, if your loved one makes a suicide attempt it is not your fault.

Warning Signs and Risk Factors

If someone talks about:

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

If someone displays one or more of the following moods:

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

Behaviors to look out for:

  • Increased substance use
  • Reckless or aggressive behaviors
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Saying goodbye to people
  • Giving away money or possessions

If they’ve experienced:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline or antisocial personality disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Psychotic disorders or symptoms
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Serious or chronic health condition/pain

Other Risk Factors:

  • Stressful Life Events
  • Prolonged stress factors
  • Access to lethal means
  • Exposure to graphic suicide accounts
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide attempts

How To Respond

  • Remain calm, non-judgemental, and supportive
  • Communicate your concern and love for that person
  • Avoid using terms like “selfish” or “did you think about how would I feel?”
  • Communicate how important they are to you, and that their loss would be devastating to you
  • Tell them that you will be with them every step of the way
  • Help them find the resources they need, such as a therapist or a national hotline
  • Sit down together and create a safety plan or download this app
  • Work together to restrict access to means such as their personal firearms, medications, household poisons (e.g., drain cleaner), heavy ropes, etc. until they feel safe again
  • Take them to the nearest emergency room if they feel like they might make an attempt

External Resources

It’s Not Your Fault

Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, and death by suicide is no one’s fault. Suicide is the unfortunate result of extreme mental illness, the effects of which compound over time. Often, there is not anything any one person can do to prevent a suicide. However, you have taken the first step in helping your loved one in their time of crisis, which is seeking more information in how to help them. Now that you know what suicide is, know the signs, and have a list of resources you will be better equipped to help your loved one. If you feel you need additional support, please call a crisis lifeline.

Disclaimer: Please be advised. Our online crisis pages are meant to be a free service to connect those in crisis with organizations who can provide 24/7 crisis help. Additionally, these pages are not intended to replace professional help, but rather provide tips as to where anyone should start in seeking crisis help.  We are not equipped to provide live crisis help. If you contact us for crisis help, it may be days before anyone responds. External pages do no imply endorsement.