Warning signs of suicide
• Talking about wanting to die
• Looking for a way to kill oneself
• Talking about feeling hopeless, helpless or having no purpose
• Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
• Talking about being a burden to others
• 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
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide.
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide:
• Do not leave the person alone.
• Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
• Instead of giving glib reassurances, offer hope that alternatives are available; if necessary, get help from those who specialize in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
• Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
How you can help
The first step is to find out whether the person is in danger of acting on suicidal feelings. Asking about them won’t push someone into doing something self-destructive. Rather, offering an opportunity to talk may reduce the risk. Be sensitive, but ask direct questions, such as:
• How are you coping with what’s been happening in your life?
• Do you ever feel like just giving up?
• Are you thinking about dying?
• Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
• Are you thinking about suicide?
• Have you ever thought about suicide before or tried to harm yourself?
• Have you thought about how or when you would do it?
• Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?
During your talk:
• Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
• Listen. Don’t act shocked; this will put distance between you. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
• Don't be judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
• Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
• Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
Where to go for help
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 741741
Regionwide: Call 211 for mental health, suicide prevention and other public health services
Erie County: Crisis Services of Buffalo and Erie County operates a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline at 834-3131 and an addiction hotline at 831-7007
Niagara County: Crisis phones in Niagara Falls State Park are designed to help prevent suicides at the American and Horseshoe falls; the county Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services has a 24-hour confidential hotline at 285-3515
Chautauqua County: Crisis hotline is 800-724-0461
Erie County Medical Center: Offers regional emergency, inpatient and outpatient mental health care, including a new Help Center open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays on the Grider Street campus for those wishing to talk about a pressing mental health concern outside the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program. Call outpatient treatment services (adult, child and family) at 898-3255; inpatient treatment services at 898-3169; and the Emergency Department at 898-3465.
Prevention, early intervention, follow-up support:
Mental Health Advocates of Western New York: Holds support meetings for those with mental health concerns, as well as for loved ones. Visit mhawny.org or call 886-1242.
Suicide Prevention Coalition of Erie County: Conducts one-hour sessions in recognizing risk factors for suicide and how to talk to somebody about suicide. Visit suicidepreventionecny.org.
Just Tell One: Justtellone.org encourages friends and loved ones to talk with young people and adolescents they fear are falling into a pattern of depression, alcohol or drug abuse, or who may be considering suicide.
Survivors of Suicide grief support: For those who have lost loved ones to suicide, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Mary & Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Support Center on the Hospice Buffalo grounds, 150 Bennett Road, Cheektowaga. For more information, call 901-0289 or email GriefSupport@palliativecare.org.
Sources: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, CDC, Mayo Clinic