Self-harm is a real threat. Depression kills, and suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health. More than 90% of people who commit suicide have depression or another mental disorder, with or without a substance abuse problem.
- The existence of a suicide plan
- Access to a gun or many pills
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings that one has committed some unforgivable offense
- Voices telling the person to kill himself or herself
- Taking care of things like wills, contacting old friends in a systematic way that suggests "good-bye," and giving things away
- A recent divorce or other personal trauma
- A chronic pain condition or medical illness
- Expressing thoughts like, "You'd all be better off without me"
- Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
A suicide attempt is not a pathetic bid for attention. A person who has made a plan to commit suicide needs to be under constant supervision. You can get help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255. You should also notify the person's physician. If the threat of self-harm is imminent, call 911.
Asking about suicidal impulses does not "put ideas" in a person's head. If you're concerned about suicide, you need to ask directly. If the person has access to guns, medications, or other items that could be used for self-harm, get rid of them.