Suicide can be difficult for someone not in crisis to understand. Unfortunately, suicide attempts are very common - suicide rates have increased more than 25% since 1999. Nearly 10 million people reported serious suicidal thoughts in 2016. Many people survive suicide attempts, but some don't.

These thoughts can happen to anyone: even people without a known mental health condition can experience suicidal thoughts. Given these facts, it's important we try to understand how someone can come to believe that suicide is the best option.

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Risk  Factors
Group of Teens Hanging Outside Eating Pizza

Warning Signs
  • giving away prized possesions/valuables
  • calling people to say goodbye
  • looking for a way to kill themselves, for example on Google
  • feeling hopeless
  • feeling trapped or in pain
  • reckless/impulsive behavior, such as reckless driving or substance use
  • withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • periods of extreme emotions (such as rage or sadness)
  • feeling like a burden
  • discussing one’s death or funeral
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • seeking access to guns, pills, or weapons
Young Latino Man Talking to Other Man

Myth Versus Fact

Myth: Talking about suicide is dangerous because you might plant the idea in someone’s head.

Fact: Talking about suicide reduces the stigma of suicidal thoughts, and allows for an open and honest conversation.

Myth: To be suicidal you have to be depressed.

Fact: Though depression is a major risk factor for suicide, suicidal thoughts can be present in anyone and have a variety of causes.

Myth: The best way to help someone suicidal is to tell them you're there for them.

Fact: Many suicidal people don't reach out for help when they need it. Be proactive by going through the 5 steps.

Dark-haired Girl Looking Down

Suicidal thoughts often arise when someone is in pain, and feels like they can not get out of their situation. They may feel like the only way out is suicide. Suicide is never the only way out.

Unfortunately people suffering don't always recognize the alternative. It can be hard to find that other way out, and to have the strength to do so. Furthermore, it can be hard to even believe there's another way out, especially if someone loses a central part of their life or has suffered for a long time. Finally, studies of suicide attempts find that they are often impulsive; someone in high distress may not weigh the long-term consequences of suicide as much as their short-term goals. If you’re experiencing thoughts like these, CLICK HERE. In the short-term, you need to stay safe. In the long-term, try to build your protective factors.

Protective Factors

With enough time and effort, anyone has the potential to overcome suicidal thoughts. Help yourself by building these protective factors against suicide and suicidal thoughts.


Even if you don't have an underlying mental health condition, you may benefit from talking to a professional so you can deal with your underlying issues.

Meaning and Purpose:

A sense of meaning or purpose in life can help you get through the toughest problems. The Holocaust survivor Viktor E Frankl once wrote: "Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” For some people, their purpose is to simply help others. We offer several ideas for meaning/purpose. You might find meaning in religious or spiritual practice. You might find purpose in doing your best. To build meaning out of the specific experience of suffering, you might become an advocate for suicide awareness or mental health.

Coping Skills:

The ability to weather crises can improve your life dramatically. Everyone copes in a slightly different way, so you have to find your own healthy way to cope. However, one idea is to fill out a safety plan, like the one available here. You can also get more ideas by going through our "Help Yourself" page.

Express Your Feelings:

When you keep your feelings to yourself, you give yourself even more pain. We get it: these issues can cause discomfort or shame. Nevertheless, opening up will help you build a support network and sense of connection.

"It CAN get better":

At the heart of many suicide attempts is the belief that "it won't get better." We challenge you to challenge that belief. Your problems may be massive, and still we ask you to entertain the belief that you can get better. If that seems too much now, instead try to accept this statement: "I cannot prove that it will never get better". Make an inner commitment to acceptance. Everytime you stray from acceptance, notice yourself and return to it.


Connecting with others can be hard when you're struggling, but has a huge impact on your wellbeing. Reach out to friends and family and make plans! Make sure to make concrete plans, because a vague "let's get together" rarely turns into anything. If your friends or family aren't available, seek out support groups or 12-step programs that can help you meet other people, as well as heal.