6 ways to help a friend or loved one who may be suicidal.

Suicide affects people across race, age, gender, and socioeconomic status. Quite frankly, suicide doesn't care.

More than 42,000 people died by suicide in 2014 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For people between ages 10 and 34, it's the second leading cause of death. While thousands complete suicide each year, an estimated 9.4 million adults in the U.S. had serious thoughts of committing suicide.

This problem is bigger than numbers. It's people. It's moms, dads, kids, siblings, grandparents, friends, and partners.


These are complex but treatable issues, and yet too often it's still considered taboo to discuss or speak frankly about suicide or mental health.

When a friend, loved one, or colleague appears to be suicidal, it can be hard to know what to do or say. But the numbers don't lie. Our silence won't slow this public health crisis; when it comes to helping someone in need, inaction is not an option.

Health professionals and people who specialize in suicide prevention say there are small actions you can take to help.

Here are some simple things you can do to help someone who may be thinking about taking their life:

1. Know what to look for.

Familiarize yourself with the warning signs. People thinking about suicide or self-harm may talk about feeling hopeless, trapped, or in incredible pain; withdraw from friends or family; experience drastic changes in mood; and/or increase their use of alcohol or drugs. Someone considering suicide may also talk or write about wanting to die. But the warning signs aren't always cut and dry.

"We tell people to look for changes," says Andy Cartmill, a trainer of suicide and intervention models and senior program educator with Addiction Services for Washington County, Oregon. "Trust your intuition. If you think something is up, there's no harm in being honest and saying, 'I just noticed a change. Are you doing OK?'"

2. Show support without judgment or anger.

Even if your friend hasn't reached out to you, check in. Let them know you care about them and you're concerned. This isn't the time to panic, argue with them, or even to try and talk them out of it.

"We tend to fix things and point out people's strengths and say, 'What about your wife?' 'What about your kids?'" Cartmill says. "It's possible they might not perceive those as strengths. So they very well might think, 'I'm doing my wife or kids a favor by relieving them of a burden.'"

Simply listen. And allow them to speak without judgment.

3. Ask specific questions.

If you're not sure if your friend is in immediate danger, the best thing to do is ask.

Individuals at the highest risk for suicide in the near future will often have a plan, the means to put the plan into action, a time frame, and intention. Asking questions will help you determine immediate risks, and the answers may inform what you do next:

  • "Do you have a plan to harm or kill yourself?"
  • "Do you have access to weapons or things you can use to harm yourself?"
  • "Have you thought about how or when you would do it?"
  • "Are you thinking about suicide?"

If you don't know what a statement or response means, ask for clarity. This may feel awkward or intimidating, but it's important to be direct and honest. And don't worry, talking about suicide won't plant the seed in someone's head.

"Research over and over again says that is not going to happen," Cartmill says. "That's one of the things people are afraid of ... 'If I ask that question, am I going to get them thinking about suicide?' and the answer is no."

4. It's OK to not know what to say.

If you're not a trained health professional or crisis counselor, this territory can be tough to navigate. It's OK to not have the perfect speech or talking points. It's first and foremost your job to listen and recognize they're hurting. That means not changing the subject or minimizing their pain.

"You don't have to be an expert; you really don't. Listening respectfully and being honest is OK," Cartmill says. "It's OK to tell people, 'What you're saying is scaring me. I want you to be OK,' and go from there."

5. Suggest professional help, or offer to help them find it.

This is not an effort to pass them off to someone else and instead aims to get them to a doctor or therapist better equipped to help with their pain. If they're seeing a professional, encourage them to get in touch with them immediately. You can even offer to accompany them to the appointment.

If they're not under a doctor or counselor's care, help them find a mental health professional or call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). It's a free, 24/7 service that can provide people thinking about suicide and those who care about them with support and connections to local resources.

6. Remember, if it's an immediate or crisis situation, it is OK to use the emergency room.

If you wouldn't hesitate to call for a broken bone or allergic reaction, don't hesitate with suicide. In a true crisis, it can't wait.

Suicide doesn't care. But lots of people do.

Keep the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in your phone, 800-273-TALK (8255). In an emergency, having that number handy for yourself or someone you care about may make all the difference.

Even talking about suicide or suicidal ideation may seem overwhelming or scary, but experts agree: Hope and recovery are possible. There are many treatment options available, with several at low or no cost. It starts with paying attention to warning signs, reaching out, and getting help if you need it.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels.com

The Delta Baby Cafe in Sunflower County, Mississippi is providing breastfeeding assistance where it's needed most.

Mississippi has the third lowest rate of breastfeeding in America. Only 70% of infants are ever-breastfed in the state, compared to 84% nationally.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants be exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life. However, in Mississippi, less than 40% are still breastfeeding at six months.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


via msleja / TikTok

In 2019, the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada instituted a policy that forbids teachers from participating in "partisan political activities" during school hours. The policy states that "any signage that is displayed on District property that is, or becomes, political in nature must be removed or covered."

The new policy is based on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2018 Janus decision that limits public employees' First Amendment protections for speech while performing their official duties.

This new policy caused a bit of confusion with Jennifer Leja, a 7th and 8th-grade teacher in the district. She wondered if, as a bisexual woman, the new policy forbids her from discussing her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

We've heard from U.S. intelligence officials for at least four years that other countries are engaging in disinformation campaigns designed to destabilize the U.S. and interfere with our elections. According to a recent New York Times article, there is ample evidence of Russia attempting to push American voters away from Joe Biden and toward Donald Trump via the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, which has created a network of fake user accounts and a website that billed itself as a "global news organization."

The problem isn't just that such disinformation campaigns exist. It's that they get picked up and shared by real people who don't know they're spreading propaganda from Russian state actors. And it's not just pro-Trump content that comes from these accounts. Some fake accounts push far-left propaganda and disinformation in order to skew perceptions of Biden. Sometimes they even share uplifting content to draw people in, while peppering their feeds with fake news or political propaganda.

Most of us read comments and responses on social media, and many of us engage in discussions as well. But how do we know if what we're reading or who we're engaging with is legitimate? It's become vogue to call people who seem to be pushing a certain agenda a "bot," and sometimes that's accurate. What about the accounts that have a real person behind them—a real person who is being paid to publish and push misinformation, conspiracy theories, or far-left or far-right content?

Keep Reading Show less