Maybe it’s only a small change. Your friend seems more distracted than usual, or maybe he’s been a bit withdrawn. Maybe she gets angered more easily by small things, or the passion he used to have seems to have disappeared.

Maybe she’s told you outright. He’s been feeling really down lately. She wonders if the world would be better off without her, and this seems like the only way to make the pain go away.

Every day in the United States, an average of 117 people die by suicide. Of those people, 90 percent had a mental disorder at the time of their death.

But statistics like these lead to more questions than answers — how many would have responded to treatment? Who had previously reached out for help? How many times does this need to happen?

What can we do to prevent this from happening again?

Because suicide is preventable, and we can take action when we’re worried about a loved one’s safety, we talked to Shari Sinwelski, associate project director at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, to get some insight into what we need to know to prevent suicide. 

If you’re worried about a friend or family member, hopefully these tips help. If you want to know more information, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a great resource here.

1. Know the signs.

One of the most obvious ways to know if someone’s considering suicide is if they’re talking about it. But the word “suicide” won’t always leave his or her lips. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it’s important to look out for phrases that include themes like being a burden, feeling trapped, having no reason to live or experiencing unbearable pain.

Sinwelski said some signs are less obvious to the untrained eye, like a sudden shift in a person’s demeanor. Other examples include suddenly not taking care of themselves, change in sleeping patterns or eating patterns (which can go both ways: eating/sleeping too much or too little) or expressing disinterest in things they used to love.

In teenagers, Sinwelski added, it sometime takes the form of anger or loss of concentration. In most cases, a common thread seems to be something changes or seems off. There’s been a shift in mood or character. Also, if your loved one has a history of depression, other mental illness or a previous suicide attempt, he or she may be more at risk.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. 

When you’re ready to approach a friend or loved one — or if they approach you — don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. There’s no evidence that talking to someone about suicide can “make them” suicidal — so don’t hesitate to use the word itself. On the contrary, research does indicate that talking openly about suicide lets a potentially suicidal person know he or she is not alone. If you’re worried about a friend’s behavior, there’s nothing wrong with asking upfront, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

3. Stay as calm as possible.

If the person starts to open up to you, although it may be hard, it’s important to stay calm.

“When people hear that a person might be thinking about suicide, your gut reaction might be to tense up,” Sinwelski said. “But that can sometimes make the person who’s having thoughts of suicide think you’re scared — and they might become more withdrawn.”

Instead of acting shocked or reacting in a strong way, Sinwelski said the best thing to do is create a safe space for the person, and listen. Thank them for opening up to you, and then ask what you can do.

4. Assess how serious the situation is.

According to Sinwelski, many people who have thoughts of suicide don’t end up taking their own life. But, we should still take their thoughts seriously. Some questions you can ask the person to evaluate their risk are, “How does the thought of taking your life make you feel?” “Have you thought about when or how?” The more information you have, the more you can evaluate the seriousness of the situation.

Sinwelski said the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses four factors to access a person’s risk, based on research done at Columbia University.

The first is desire — if the psychological pain they’re feeling is really enough to drive them to act upon their thoughts.

The second is capability — this could mean access to means such as firearms, but also includes their mental capability. When a a person uses drugs or alcohol, they may be more capable because their inhibitions are down. A previous suicide attempt is also a serious indicator someone is capable of attempting again. A family history of suicide or having a mental illness that makes them feel “unsafe in their own skin,” as Sinwelski put it, are also indicators that someone would be capable of following through on suicidal thoughts.

Intent is also an important factor — with the biggest indicator being a plan. A person who can give specific answers to “when” or “how” is more at risk.

The final factor is lack of connectedness — do they feel like they have no connections to our world? This includes friends, family, plans for the future, faith, pets or kids — anything to make someone feel they have something to hold on to.

5. Stay connected.

That last risk factor, Sinwelski said, is the easier way for friends and family to intervene. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, when you’re available to a friend in crisis, it can reduce the risk of suicide. Make sure your loved one knows you’re there to listen. Check in on them every day or two to see how they’re doing. Make yourself someone they can reach out to when they’re in distress.

6. Get help as soon as possible.

Of course, there are professionals you can reach out to when you’re worried about a friend or loved one. A little known fact is that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is actually for people who are worried about loved ones too — not just for people who feel suicidal themselves. So call the lifeline, or reach out to a local counselor, therapist or someone you trust. Encourage your friend to seek help for themselves if they haven’t already. Let them know there is hope — that suicide is not their only option, but that reaching out and getting help is choice that can keep them here.

I would like to emphasize that suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” Sinwelski said. “It’s not just for clinician or doctors. People are less likely to go to a counselor or a doctor than they are to show warning signs to their friends or family members. It’s really important  for people to not ignore that when they notice it — and feel empowered to help.”

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

Related: 23 Messages for Anyone Considering Suicide, From People Who’ve Been There


On March 2, 2016, I will be 36 years old. I love my birthday because it’s my day, and my wife always makes a big deal out of it with decorations, a card and gifts.

But lately, when she’s asked me what I want for my birthday this year, my answers have been negative. I said I wish I didn’t have pronounced lines on my forehead, and how I thought I’d be working full-time by now. I’ve told her that turning the big 4-0 in four years makes me a little worried. Now, before you say it, I know that 36 is not old at all, but for someone who’s tried to end her own life six times, getting a year older is a pretty big deal. I’m not vain, I just really never thought I’d make it to 36. I never thought about my future or getting older because for most of my life, I’ve been trying to just survive.

But my wife had the perfect response to my worries. She said both of us should both be glad we’re celebrating birthdays and getting older. She has a heart condition and back in the 80s was told she would never live this long. We both should be celebrating not only my birthday, but that we’re still here — that we’re not only alive, but also well.

And she’s right. I should wear my lines like a badge of honor! I should be proud I work part-time helping others and doing what I love. I’m here. I’m alive. I haven’t just made it through another year, I’m thriving. I’m in recovery. And, most importantly, I am happy and healthy!

So, instead of worrying about getting older, she reminded me that I should be happy to be getting older. I have a whole lot to celebrate, after all!

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

In the wake of losing our dads to suicide in 2011, we met at a local support group for newly bereaved young adults. In the years since, we’ve bonded over our grief and committed to helping others navigate their journeys as survivors. We wanted to share how our experience as survivors over the past few years has reframed how we perceive and acknowledge International Survivors of Suicide Day in November.

Survivor Day Gives Me Hope — Becky

This marks the sixth year I’ve recognized International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day since facing my father’s untimely passing. “Survivor Day,” as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention calls it, is the one day each year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world and in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. Some participate in events or online webinars, while others simply find solace in knowing they aren’t alone. It’s estimated more than 44,000 individuals die by suicide in the United States every year, leaving behind many more.

Becky and her Dad
Becky and her Dad

I remember learning for the first time that such a day existed. I was three months into my grief journey and trying to find my way through the hazy fog of reality that my dad had taken his own life. My mom, brother and I attended an event at an area hospital featuring a variety of speakers in the mental health field. Admittedly, I could hardly concentrate, I was still so overwhelmed by the thought I had a reason to be there. After all, suicide didn’t happen to people “like us.” In hindsight, I don’t even know what that meant, but it didn’t seem to be a topic I needed to worry about in my family. However, as I looked around the room that day, I quickly learned that despite my preconceived notions, suicide knows no “type.” At the time of his death, my dad was a respected 64-year-old judge. He was active in the community, a regular volunteer and a member of more organizations than I can count. My parents were still lovingly married after 30 years. He was also the life of every party, with an infectious laugh and an incredible sense of humor. During times when I felt down in life, my dad was always there to give me a pep talk and work it out. These are many of the reasons why his suicide shocked us. How could such a seemingly happy man give everything up in a split second? Having had years now to meet hundreds of other survivors and gain a better understanding of the factors that may lead someone down the path of suicide, I am more aware than ever that suicide knows no bounds. I’ve shared tears and hugs with survivor parents, siblings, children and friends who have all become part of “the club nobody wants to join.”

As I hear and read stories of each of their loved ones, I am amazed at how jovial, bright and beloved they were. Survivors and those lost span all ages, ethnic backgrounds, geographies, economic classes and religions. This is because depression, anxiety and other mental health struggles that can put individuals at risk for suicide do not discriminate. None of us who lost someone did anything wrong, and neither did our loved ones, which is why society’s stigma around these topics is so hurtful. On International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, I am reminded that even though I may feel alone in my personal grief, I am surrounded by others – including Jessica – who understand how difficult it is to experience a loss of this nature. I am also filled with hope that time will continue to reveal new research and insights into the causes and prevention of suicide so that fewer people are forced into “the club.”

Survivor Day Reminds Me of My Strength — Jessica 

I often speak about my life in two parts: my life before my dad’s suicide and my life after. In an instant, I was forced into “the club” that Becky referred to. I have been a member for nearly five years and I can say that my perception of being a survivor has been altered over the years. Being a survivor means that you have been introduced to a new level of pain. A level of pain that others outside of “the club” will never fully understand. The solid ground beneath you now feels like quick sand. The familiar world around you feels like a foreign place. You question who you are and what this tragedy means about you and your future. It is our own version of mass destruction. Everything we knew to be true no longer seems accurate. This is the sad reality of a loss by suicide. Being a survivor also means that you have been introduced to a new level of strength. A strength that you never knew existed inside of you. It takes strength to get up, get dressed and engage in a world that no longer appears safe or familiar. It takes strength to allow yourself to feel the pain, to allow yourself to break down, to allow yourself to just be. It takes strength to rebuild your life and make sense out of a senseless act. It takes strength to begin again.

Jessica and her Dad
Jessica and her Dad

While I would not have chosen to be a part of “the club” I am thankful for the people I have met along the way. Survivors of a suicide loss are some of the strongest people I have encountered. They are kinder than most, more observant of the world around them, and give more than they receive. Survivors are the definition of resilience. On International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, I am reminded of my own strength, and humbled by the strength of those who have walked alongside me through my journey.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via contributor 

Editor’s note: The following describes a suicide attempt. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

My Mother’s Day card looked ordinary. Snoopy was on the front. There were flowers and butterflies. I was not expecting anything too sentimental or sappy — after all, I am the mother of boys.

But inside, my 17-year-old had written one simple sentence: “You are more than my mother, you are my savior.” It brought tears to my eyes, a painful lump to my throat and a pang to my heart. He thinks I’m his savior because I prevented his death; but I am not the one who saved him.

On the left shows the front of the card: Charlie Brown and Snoopy sit on a green filed. The text reads, "You're the glue that keeps this family together." On the right shows the inside of the card, which reads, "You're more than my mother you're my savior."

My husband and I began to suspect Peter was suffering from depression in the summer before his senior year of high school. He was becoming increasingly withdrawn and negative. His friends told us he had been talking of dying. We insisted he go to counseling. It was too little, too late; less than a week later our son tried to end his life.

It was the first day of his senior year. There was an excitement in the air. A parade of the senior’s decorated cars made a grand procession to school that morning. The car horns were beeping and the students were waving and whooping. It was going to be a great year!

Peter’s mood turned very dark that evening. It was like the flip of a switch. There was an argument and his anger and hostility escalated in a way that was out of proportion to the events. At the time, I was uneducated about mood disorders. I didn’t know anger, hostility and irritability are sometimes how depression manifests in males. I didn’t know his sudden shift in mood was a sign of a bipolar condition. I thought my son was being an angry, emotional teenager.

When I woke at 4 a.m. I knew something wasn’t right. I felt compelled to check on Peter. I had a thought that kept repeating in my head: “If you wait until morning it will be too late.” I knew, somehow, I just knew, I had to go to him.

He had been bleeding for hours and his bedroom looked like a crime scene. I ran to call 9-1-1 and wake my husband. In the instant that I was gone from his room he jumped out of his window. He broke his back in the fall. The moments and hours that followed were traumatizing. He had two major surgeries and was hospitalized for 12 days.

His resilience and strength of spirit were truly inspiring. He fought through unbearable physical pain and extreme mental anguish to make a full recovery. He returned to school 10 days after his discharge. I can’t imagine the amount of courage it took to walk back into high school with a cervical collar, a back brace and his dominant hand in a cumbersome support. Both wrists were covered with angry red scars and the hallways were full of whispers, but he held his head high and his friends rallied around him. He worked hard and with fierce determination; in school, in physical therapy and in counseling. He graduated and was accepted to college. His scars are the only visible residual effects.

The invisible damage has been harder to heal. It has taken time and professional help, but our family is whole and we are healing. I have devoted everything ounce of my being to help my son. It is his journey, but I’ve been by his side at every turn, every uphill stride, every joyful coast and every fork in the road.

His card told me he appreciates all that I have done for him, but I am not a savior. I am a mother. He saved himself.

Peter at graduation
Peter at graduation.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us the story around a note or card you saved because of its significance. Send a photo of the note or card as well. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in America in 2014. This means someone in the U.S. died by suicide every 12.3 minutes that year. But with early intervention, support and treatment, suicide is preventable. If we help those at risk — and make help more accessible for those who need it — we can live in a world where these numbers shrink.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or just needs someone to talk to, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To learn more about the warning signs of suicide, head here.

For now, hear these messages from members of our Mighty community who’ve been there. We hope their words give you the push to get the help you need and deserve.

Here’s what they want to tell anyone who’s in a dark place:

1. “Although it’s cliché and you may not believe it right now, it really does get better. I promise you won’t regret sticking through it.” — Kristy Hindman-Cook

A quote from Kristy Hindman-Cook that says, "Although it's cliché and you may not believe it right now, it really does get better."

2. “You deserve to give yourself one more try. You deserve to live. You deserve to be.” — Bambi Sears

3. “Open up, let someone in so they can find a way to help you through your tough times. No one deserves to go through life alone.” — Katherine J Palmer

4. “People have different reasons for suicidal thoughts and depression, so there’s no easy solution. All I can say is that tomorrow is a chance to start over. You just have to make it to tomorrow.” — Kelley Robinson

5. “Please reach out. I don’t care how dumb or weak you think you are or sound. Get the help you deserve.” — Morgan Stacy

A quote from Morgan Stacy that says, "Please reach out. I don't care how dumb or weak you think you are or sound. Get the help you deserve."

6. “[Suicide] is not a solution. It doesn’t fix anything.” — April Dominguez

7. “[If you live in the United States], call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — it’s in my speed dial. In my experience, the counselors are very caring and helpful. They’ve talked me out of a crisis many times.” — Debbie Kasuba Hendrix

8. “This world needs you.” — Alicia Nelsen

9. “You are worth it. Even when it’s dark and deep and cold. You are important. Even when you think your light is too dim, someone sees it. And you. You don’t have to go through this alone. I promise.” — Kelly Jo

A quote from Kelly Jo that says, "Even when you think your light is too dim, someone sees it."

10. “Those dark thoughts make your days feel like years and your weeks feel like centuries. But it doesn’t have to always be that way. You can tell someone. You can get help.” — Arielle Smith

11. “Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses need to be treated. I know the darkness seems an eternity and hope is so far gone, but when you ask for help and receive it, life will turn around. I am a Survivor, and you are too.” — Renee Sheridan Birchall

12. “Don’t be ashamed of your suicidal thoughts. They don’t make you a bad person or make you weak. They are just a symptom of a mental disease, just like chest pain is a symptom of heart disease. When we experience symptoms, it’s time to seek help, regardless of the disease. Chest pains don’t make a heart patient weak or bad, and neither do any of your thoughts.” — Jennifer Sladden

A quote from Jennifer Sladden that says, "Don't be ashamed of your suicidal thoughts... They are just a symptom of a mental disease... When we experience symptoms, it's time to seek help."

13. “The people in your life are not better off without you.” — Cary Rice Schwent 

14. “Just make it through that hour — half-hour, 15 minutes, one minute. It’s so hard, but break it down to the best of your abilities to make it through.” —  Katherine Cavaliere

15. “Getting help is easier than the alternative.” — Suzy Ellis

16. “It’s a lie. Your mind lies like an ancient serpent. You are beautiful and worthy and the loss of you would devastate and cripple the hearts of those who love you. Don’t suffer in silence; the liar is counting on you to isolate. Speak up and let people help you. You have purpose on this Earth. Please don’t leave.” — Shell Rioux Hurrell

A quote from Shell Rioux Hurrell that says, "Don't suffer in silence; the liar is counting on you to isolate."

17. “Nobody will understand unless you tell people your story. And if that story saves one more life, then choosing to stay will not have been in vain.” — Douglas Honeywill 

18. “Honestly…I don’t know. But what I’ve found out is that it’s OK to not know. Going slow is better than quitting.” — LeChondra Sapp

19. “There’s a difference between wanting to kill yourself and wanting to kill the part of you that wants you to kill yourself. It’s still hard, but now that I know there’s a difference, I can get much better help when I’m struggling.” — Alison Taylor

A quote from Alison Taylor that says, "There's a difference between wanting to kill yourself and wanting to kill the part of you that wants you to kill yourself."

20. “I don’t know your story, your pain, your bone-deep tiredness, your struggle or your reasons. But I would listen to them all. We’re out here, thousands of us, waiting on helplines, aching for the chance to hold out our hand, hold yours as long as you need it, until you can rest a little, lean a little and believe in possibility of tomorrow.” — Charlene Dewbre

21. “What you’re feeling now is real. It’s not true, but it feels true. Call someone trained to ground you in reality and help you. Call.” — Joel-Sara Taylor

22. “Someday the light will come and it will be more beautiful because you are a survivor.” — Ashley Roenfeldt 

23. “It’s just a thought. Don’t listen.” — Louise Weis
A quote from Louise Weis that says, "It's just a thought. Don't listen."

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

*Answers have been edited and shortened. 

23 Messages for Anyone Considering Suicide, From People Who've Been There

Mental health advocates are speaking out against shirts sold on Amazon they say make light of suicide.

Editor’s note: The images and descriptions below may be triggering for some. Suicide prevention resources are at the bottom of this article.

The designs in question are being sold by multiple vendors on the site. One example is a shirt that reads, “Got Suicide?” The other shows someone with a noose around his neck while another figure watches eating popcorn. The text reads, “Suicide Watch.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 9.22.05 AM
Images taken from

“The images on the shirts that Amazon is selling are so harmful because they make light of the very thing we have to change to save lives: complacency. Suicide is preventable, and yet we fail to prevent it more than 40,000 times every year in America,” Mark Henick, a suicide attempt survivor and mental health advocate, told The Mighty in an email. “This scandal haunts the lives of the millions of people who have either had a family member or friend who completed suicide or who themselves have attempted suicide.”

In 2014, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in America.

Henick started a petition and is boycotting the online retailer until the company agrees to take the shirts down.

“This has nothing to do with free speech,” Henick said. “This is dangerous. It can trigger people who have previous exposure to suicide and help pave a pathway toward something that should never be an option.”

Dr. Victor Schwartz, Medical Director of The JED Foundation, agrees messages like these can be dangerous for people who are vulnerable to suicide, and hurtful to those who have experienced losing someone to suicide. “Comedy and humor are valuable and great, but certain topics ought to be off limits. This is the case with suicide,” he said.

Henick also pointed out the shirts are a violation of Amazon’s own policy on restricted products, which includes “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views.” It had recently pulled products with the Confederate flag based on these standards.

“There is no defensible position for continuing to promote, sell or even manufacture any product that promotes or makes light of suicide,” Henick said.

Maggie Harder, a 14-year-old who started Liberate Minds, a campaign to stop the stigma associated with mental illness, initially found the shirts while browsing Amazon’s site. She said products like this perpetuate stigma and prevent people from getting help.

“Having these slogans on shirts show that mental illness isn’t something to be taken seriously,” she told The Mighty.

Harder wrote a letter Amazon but hasn’t heard back yet. Amazon also hasn’t responded to The Mighty’s request for comment.

To sign the petition, click here.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.