How To Help Someone At Risk For Suicide

Sep 13,2023

Read Time 3 Minutes

Suicide and suicide attempts affect people from all walks of life — no matter their race, age, gender, or income. It’s a complicated, serious issue, yet each of us can help prevent suicide by understanding the risk factors, learning the warning signs, and knowing what action we can take to stop self-harm.

Risk Factors For Self-Harm


Risk factors that can increase the chance of a suicide attempt include:


  • Mental or behavioral health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or substance use disorder.
  • Stressful life events, such as divorce, losing a job, financial problems, bullying, or the loss of a loved one. 
  • History as a victim or offender of a violent crime.  
  • Knowing someone who has died by suicide, especially a family member.


Signs Of Suicidal Behavior


Reach out or seek help as soon as possible if someone close to you shows any following warning signs of suicide: 


  • Acting in ways that are unusual or worrisome. 
  • Differences in exercise habits, eating, or sleep. 
  • Giving away belongings or saying goodbye. 
  • Increased alcohol or drug use. 
  • Prolonged mood changes, such as persistent anxiety, sadness, or anger. 
  • Talk of feeling hopeless, trapped, or in pain. 
  • Talk about death or suicide. 
  • Withdrawing from family and friends or activities.


Learn other suicide warning signs from the National Institute of Mental Health.


How To Help Someone At Risk


It’s possible to be the difference in someone’s life, but you may not know what to do. If you are concerned about someone close to you, take any signs that someone might be considering suicide seriously. Then, follow these six actions you can take

Your role in preventing suicide



Reach out

Ask direct questions, such as: “Are you thinking about suicide?” or “Have you tried to harm yourself?” Allowing someone who’s hurting to open up in a safe space may actually reduce suicidal thoughts. 


Allow the person to talk openly through what they’re thinking and feeling and take their answers seriously. Let them know you care.

Build connections

Help them create a network of people to talk to when they’re struggling. Start by encouraging them to see their regular doctor and a therapist right away.

Keep them safe

Do what you can to reduce access to means of self-harm, such as guns, prescription medicines, razors, or knives. Encourage them to call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (988 or if they’re dealing with suicidal thoughts — it’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. Save the number as an emergency contact in their phone. 

Know when to get more help

If someone you know has made a suicide attempt or says they have plans to do so, seek help right away. Don’t leave the person alone — call 911 or take them to an emergency room. 


You can also call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline to talk with a crisis counselor. They can offer support and connect you with local resources.

Follow up

Staying in touch after a crisis makes a difference. Keep reaching out, even after you think they may be feeling better.

Help Is Available


Talking with a doctor or therapist can help people build resilience against suicide and recover from suicidal thoughts. To find a healthcare professional in your plan’s network, use the Find Care feature on the SydneySM Health app or at



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Risk and Protective Factors (accessed September 2023):

National Institutes of Mental Health: Suicide Prevention (accessed September 2023):

National Institutes of Mental Health: Frequently Asked Questions About Suicide (accessed September 2023):



Online counseling is not appropriate for all kinds of problems. If you are in crisis or have suicidal thoughts, it’s important that you seek help immediately. Please call 988 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) and ask for help. If your issue is an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.


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