Why do people become suicidal?
People who become suicidal are often suffering from depression or another mental health problem. Suicidal thoughts can be the result of intense pain, stress, and hopelessness. Thinking about suicide can create a false sense of control in a situation that otherwise feels uncontrollable, inescapable, and everlasting.
Just having suicidal thoughts doesn't mean someone is going to end their life. Most people who are suicidal want to live and might have overcome suicidal thoughts in the past. What is it then that turns someone who is thinking about suicide into someone who is at risk for hurting themselves?
We know there are a few things that can increase someone’s risk for dying by suicide. Not receiving treatment for a mental illness can make someone’s suicidal thoughts worse. Using drugs or alcohol can also make it easier for someone to act on their suicidal thoughts. Struggling with sleep, going through a crisis with no clear solutions, and experiencing bullying can all intensify suicidal thoughts.
How can I help someone who is suicidal?
If you are worried about someone, ask them if they are having thoughts about killing themselves. This can be a scary thing to do. You might be worried that if you ask them about suicidal thoughts it could make the problem worse or it might put the idea of suicide in their head. But decades of research have shown this is not the case. Asking someone who is struggling about suicide does not make the problem worse and can help the other person feel like you care about them.
The Jed Foundation has a tool to help you talk to someone who may be suicidal. You can also share your concerns with a trusted parent, teacher, or counselor and get their advice on how to support your friend. Sometimes it can be helpful to sit with your friend as they call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. If you are worried someone is not in a safe place, go with them to a hospital or offer to call 911.
What should I do if I am feeling suicidal?
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, talk to someone you trust. Consider reaching out to a parent, teacher, school counselor, a therapist, or your doctor. A trusted adult can help you get the support you need during this difficult time.
You can also reach out to crisis support services like the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. If you are in a crisis, go to your nearest hospital emergency room or call 911.
To manage your suicidal thoughts, work with a mental health professional and develop a safety plan. MY3 is an app you can download for free to keep track of your warning signs, coping strategies, and the people you can reach out to for help (Android, Apple). The JED Foundation is also a great place to explore mental health resources.