In California, suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10-24.  It is the 11th leading cause of death overall in California.  On average, a person dies by suicide every 2 hours in our State. (Data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

In my work as a therapeutic educational consultant, I meet with boys and girls who express a desire to commit suicide.  Some of them have made attempts.  Some just have the idea.  Regardless of either, if a teenager says they feel suicidal, believe them until proven otherwise.  But, what do you do if you suspect someone you know could be feeling suicidal?  The answer is easier than you think.

Popular Misconceptions about Suicide

  • Asking will give them the idea

  • People who talk about it won’t attempt it

  • Suicide happens without warning

  • Only people who are depressed or mentally ill die by suicide

  • Improvement in the suicidal person means that the risk is over

  • Patient’s under a doctor’s care are not at suicidal risk

Signs and Symptoms

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves

  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live

  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun

  • Talking about great guilt or shame

  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)

  • Talking about being a burden to others

  • Using alcohol or drugs more often

  • Acting anxious or agitated

  • Withdrawing from family and friends

  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits

  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast

  • Talking or thinking about death often

  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy

  • Giving away important possessions

  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has increased recently. One resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889. Suicide Crisis Text Line 741-741.

Steps to Take if you think someone is Suicidal

If you are a teenager, please go tell an adult – if you are afraid to say something to your parents, try a school counselor, teacher, tutor, coach or call the Suicide Hotline to speak anonymously with an adult who will know how to help you.

If you are an adult who has interacted with a young person who you suspect may be suicidal, here are some basic steps to follow.

Step One:  Is there a suicidal desire?