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Let’s make suicide something we discuss — and prevent

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If someone you know has been struggling lately, check in on them. Suicide is preventable and reaching out can help.

In the time it takes to brush your teeth in the morning, a person has died by suicide. In the time it takes to fill a teakettle or coffeepot, another has died.1 It’s a startling statistic. Every 40 seconds throughout the world, someone’s life ends this way. For every person who dies, about 20 survive a suicide attempt.2

Suicide is a global health issue. But it’s not often discussed openly. Silence, or even hushed tones, can add to the stigma. That can cause feelings of shame in people who have survived a suicide attempt or lost someone to suicide. Instead, it’s important to show others that we care — to listen without judgment and help people get support when they need it.

Wondering what you should say or do if you’re worried about someone? Want to show support in your community? Here are some ideas for getting started.

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Know the warning signs

When someone is considering taking their life by suicide, they might threaten to do it and search for methods and means. They might say things like, “No one will miss me when I’m gone.” They might say goodbye to family and friends and give away things they care about.3 You may also see extreme mood swings, increased anxiety, or increased anger or rage.4, 5

There are some risk factors as well:3

  • Experiencing depression or a substance use disorder
  • Having survived a previous suicide attempt
  • Being socially isolated
  • Suffering from ongoing illness or pain
  • Having experienced abuse, trauma, war, violence or discrimination
  • Experiencing severe distress such as a breakup or the loss of a loved one

Look for ways to help in your community

Consider volunteering at a suicide prevention organization. They might need people to answer phones. You might also be able to offer support in other ways, such as spreading awareness at community events. Look for other organizations that may help at-risk people as well. Youth organizations, mentoring opportunities and recovery programs may be good places to contact.

Be prepared for a tough conversation

If you think someone is considering suicide, ask them. Asking someone directly, “Have you thought about hurting or killing yourself?” will not put the idea into their head. It’s important to talk and listen compassionately without judgment. Suicide is preventable.3,5 Don’t lecture them about the value of life, and don’t tell them whether suicide is right or wrong.5 Instead, listen. You can ask questions if needed but be sure not to interrupt.5

Get professional help

If the person asks you to keep it a secret, explain why it’s important for them to get the care they need right away. While talking to you may be helpful for them, you don’t have to do it all on your own.

Encourage the person you’re speaking with to seek professional support. They could talk with a doctor or mental health professional.3 If you’re worried they’re in danger, don’t leave them alone. Seek help from a crisis line or emergency services and remove any methods that could be used to cause harm.3,5

Call or text 988

988 is a quick way to access the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can call or text anytime you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, including considering suicide. Crises can look different for everyone, so whatever feels like a mental health crisis to you is the right reason to call.

With more awareness and efforts to prevent suicide, we won’t have to lose a person every 40 seconds. Take a moment to consider what you could do to make positive change. Together, we can make a difference.

Find mental health resources that fit with your life. Work 1-on-1 with a virtual coach or therapist from AbleTo. Find support.

Sources:

  1. World Health Organization (WHO). Suicide: One person dies every 40 seconds. September 9, 2019. Accessed August 30, 2023.
  2. WHO. Suicide prevention. Accessed August 30, 2023.
  3. WHO. Do you know someone who may be considering suicide? Accessed August 30, 2023.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. #BeThere to help prevent suicide. Last reviewed August 25, 2023. Accessed August 30, 2023.
  5. 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Help someone else. Accessed August 30, 2023.ol>>

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Optum does not recommend or endorse any treatment or medications, specific or otherwise. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not meant to provide medical advice or otherwise replace professional advice. Consult with your clinician, physician or mental health care provider for specific health care needs, treatment or medications. Certain treatments may not be included in your insurance benefits. Check your health plan regarding your coverage of services.

If you or someone you know is in crisis— seek safety and get help right away. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room.

To reach a trained crisis counselor, call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). You may also text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. The lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support.

Stock photo. Posed by model.