Suicide Share +


Contrary to popular belief, talking about suicide CANNOT plant the idea in someone’s head. Instead it opens lines of communication about a topic that is often kept a secret. Text or call to talk to someone now. 


Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it is often preventable. Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can save lives.

Unexpected Warning Signs

Suicidal behavior is NOT always as simple as identifying a negative change in behavior or mood. Sometimes it is exactly the opposite, many times after a loved one has been struggling they suddenly seem to make a change for the better, getting affairs in order, going on vacations, accomplishing goals he or she has been working toward for years, spending increased amount of time with friends and family. Predeath behavior surrounding  suicide is often described as looking for change in mood or impulsivity, however change in mood can include a shift from withdrawn depressive symptoms to increase in mood, engagement, or social activity. To learn more about ALL of the warning signs associated with suicidal behavior and what you can do to help please attend a free QPR (question, persuade, refer) traning; for upcoming tranings in San Diego click here. 

Warning Signs 

Symptoms and behaviors associated with thoughts of suicide: 

  • Talking about feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or that there are no solutions
  • Talking about death, wanting to die, or wanting to kill oneself
  • Substance abuse and risk-taking
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Feeling worried or angry 
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities
  • Change in personality, eating habits and sleeping patterns
  • Displaying extreme and sudden mood swings 
  • Plans of giving away possessions
  • Researching and studying ways to die
  • Obtaining a weapon or stashing pills
  • Suicide attemps, like cutting or overdosing
  • Situations that can serve as “trigger points” for suicidal behaviors. These include things like loss or death; humiliations, rejections, or failures, getting in trouble at home, in school or with the law; a break-up; or impending changes for which your child feels scared or unprepared.

If you notice any of these things in family, friends, or children who have always been impulsive, made previous suicide attempts or threats, or seem vulnerable in any way, please seek professional help.

Risk Factors

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, and socio-economic classes can be at risk. There is no single cause for suicide. However, many people at risk share similar characteristics:

  • Depression or other mental disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Chronic pain
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of mental disorder, substance abuse, or suicide
  • History of family violence, including physical and sexual abuse
  • Having guns or firearms in the home
  • Having recently been released from jail or prison
  • Being exposed to suicidal behavior, such as other family members, friends, peers, celebrities, and media 
Not everyone who exhibits these signs will attempt suicide. It is important to note that suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should never be ignored. 

Information for Parents

Every parent would like to believe that suicide is not relevant to them, their family, or friends. Unfortunately, it’s all too relevant for all of us. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among adolescents and 2nd among college-aged students. 17% of high school students admit to thinking about suicide and nearly 8% admit to making an attempt.

The unfortunate truth is that suicide can happen to ANY kid in ANY family at ANY time.

How do you deal with this reality?

  • Acknowledge that suicide is as much of a risk for your child as not wearing a seatbelt
  • Talk to your children about suicide as you would talk to them about drugs and alcohol 
  • Approach it in the same way as you approach other subjects that are important to you

Contrary to popular belief, talking about suicide cannot plant the idea in someone’s head. It can open up a dialogue about a topic that is often kept secret. Secrets that are openly communicated become less powerful and less scary. You also give your child permission to bring up the subject again in the future.

How Do I Talk to My Child?

  • Pick a time when you have the best chance of getting your child’s attention, like a car ride or around the dinner table 
  • Think about what you want to say ahead of time and rehearse a script if necessary 
  • Suicide is a hard subject to talk about - admit it! By acknowledging your discomfort, you give your child permission to acknowledge his/her discomfort too.
  • Ask for your child’s response. Be direct! Ask questions such as:
    • What do you think about suicide?
    • Is it something that any of your friends talk about?
    • Have you ever thought about it? What about your friends?
  • Listen to what your child has to say. If you hear something that worries you, be honest about that too. 
    • What you’re telling me has really gotten my attention and I need to think about it some more. Let’s talk about this again, okay?
  • Don’t over- or under-react. Over-reaction will close off any future communication on the subject. Under-reaction, especially in relation to suicide, is often just a way to make ourselves feel better. 
  • Any thoughts or talk of suicide (I felt that way a while ago but don’t any more) should always be revisited
  • Ask about the problem that created the suicidal thoughts. Suicide is an attempt to solve a problem that seems impossible to solve in any other way. Asking about what caused these thoughts can make it easier to bring up again in the future (I wanted to ask you again about the situation you were telling me about…)

5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain

1) Ask: "Are you thinking of killing yourself?" It is not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.

2) Keep them safe. Reducing a suicidal person's access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of prevention. 

3) Be there. Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. 

4) Help them connect. Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in your phone so it's there when you need it. 1-800-TALK. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual such as a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional. 

5) Stay connected. Staying in touch after a crisis can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths go down when someone follows up with the at-risk person. 

Source: National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Suicide Prevention. Retrieved July 13, 2017 from


Signs a Child Might Be Suicidal: What to watch out for and how to help, Child Mind Institute

How are Self-Injury and Suicide Related?: The intent is different, though one can lead to the other, Child Mind Institute

Teen Suicides: What are the Risk Factors?: Temperament, family and community all play a role, Child Mind Institute

What to Do if You're Worried About Suicide: A parent's guide to helping children in distress, Child Mind Institute

Supporting Children After the Suicide of a Classmate: Responding to a painful loss in the healthiest way possible, Child Mind Institute

Preparing Kids for College Emotionally: Problem-solving skills can help students keep from being overwhelmed, Child Mind Institute

Crisis TEXT Line: Text "CONNECT" to 741741 for Confidential Suicide Prevention Text Support 

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

It's Up to Us- San Diego: Suicide Prevention & Support An Online Crisis Network

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1 or Text to 838255

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: Parents

Click here for: Reactions to Suicide & Other Trauma - What's normal & when to seek support

Social media, self-harm and suicide. How can parents help kids help a friend?

Coping, Advocacy, & Support

The Rock Church Support Group: Aftershock 

SOSL San Diego: Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Groups

Community Health Improvement: Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Training