Suicide Prevention

SAMHSA provides suicide prevention information and other helpful resources to behavioral health professionals, the general public, and people at risk.

If you need help now, please call 911 or contact SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

SAMHSA is a partner of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public-private partnership advancing the national strategy for suicide prevention. Suicide is a serious public health problem that causes immeasurable pain, suffering, and loss to individuals, families, and communities nationwide. Suicide prevention efforts seek to:

  • Reduce factors that increase the risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
  • Increase the factors that help strengthen, support, and protect individuals from suicide.

Ideally, these efforts address individual, relationship, community, and societal factors while promoting hope, easing access into effective treatment, encouraging connectedness, and supporting recovery.

The causes of suicide are complex and determined by multiple combinations of factors, such as mental illness, substance abuse, painful losses, exposure to violence, and social isolation. Warning signs that may mean someone is at risk include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself  
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain  
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly 
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge 
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

The risk is greater if the behavior is new, or has increased, and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

If you believe someone may be thinking about suicide:

  • Call 911, if danger for self-harm seems imminent.
  • Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. (This will not put the idea into their head or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.)
  • Listen without judging and show you care.
  • Stay with the person (or make sure the person is in a private, secure place with another caring person) until you can get further help.
  • Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
  • Call SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and follow their guidance.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide. For instance, faith communities can work to prevent suicide simply by fostering cultures and norms that are life-preserving, providing perspective and social support to community members, and helping people navigate the struggles of life to find a sustainable sense of hope, meaning, and purpose.

Although prior suicide attempts is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide, the vast majority of people who attempt suicide—9 in 10—do not ultimately die by suicide. A growing number of people who have lived through suicidal experiences are writing and speaking about their experiences, connecting with one another, and sharing their pathways to wellness and recovery. For examples, read the Action Alliance’s The Way Forward.

Losing a loved one to suicide can be profoundly painful for family members and friends. SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center helps loss survivors find local and national organizations, websites, and other resources that provide support, healing, and a sense of community.

Related Links

Last Updated: 01/30/2019