How You Can Play a Role in Preventing Suicide

While the causes of suicide are complex, the goal of suicide prevention is simple – to reduce factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience or coping. With a public health approach, prevention occurs at all levels of society, from the individual, family, and community levels to the broader social environment.

Page updated on Jul 28, 2016 at 4:42 PM

Why is Suicide a Public Health Problem?

  • In 2011, 39,518 people killed themselves—an average of 108 each day 
  • In 2011, over 487,700 people with self-inflicted injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments 
  • Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States 

    • Ranked third among persons 15-24 years old 
    • Ranked second among persons 25-34 years old 

    • Ranked fourth among persons 35-54 years old 

    • Ranked eighth among persons 55-64 years old 

    • Ranked tenth overall  

Who is at Risk for Suicide?

There is no single cause of suicide. Several factors can increase a person’s risk for attempting or dying by suicide. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur.  

Risk factors for suicide include:   

  • Previous suicide attempt(s) 
  • History of depression or other mental illness 
  • Alcohol or drug abuse 
  • Family history of suicide or violence 
  • Physical illness 
  • Feeling alone  

To learn more about suicide risk, go to  

Warning Signs of Suicidal Behaviors

Everyone can play a role in preventing suicide by being aware of the warning signs of suicidal behaviors:  

  • Talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, trapped, in unbearable pain, or being a burden to others   
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself 
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs 
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless 
  • Sleeping too little or too much 
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated 
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge 
  • Displaying extreme mood swings  

What You Can Do

If you believe someone is at risk of suicide:   
  • Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves (This will not put the idea into their heads, or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.) 
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) 
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional 
  • Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt 
  • If possible, do not leave the person alone 

Do You or Someone You Know Need Help?