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If you or someone you know is having thoughts about suicide or harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
Learn the warning signs of suicide

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of suicide, call 911 or a mental health provider right away, or go to an emergency room. Some of the most dangerous signs of suicide risk are:

  • Talking or writing about death, suicide, or wanting to hurt oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself
Other signs include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Feeling trapped — like there's no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Anxiety, agitation, being unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Thinking there is no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life

Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are almost four times more likely than women to die by suicide. One reason is that men are more likely to use deadlier means — such as firearms — when they set out to take their own lives.

The reasons some people want to take their own lives are complex. We do know that many people who die by suicide have a mental illness, usually depression, a substance use problem, or both. Treating mental illness and substance abuse can lower the risk of suicide. Men get treatment less often than women, though. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, get help.

Many factors can work together to lead a person to suicide. Some factors that may increase a person's risk of suicide include:

  • Age. Suicide rates for men are highest among those 75 and older. Also, older men are much more likely to commit suicide than older women.
  • A major loss. These can range from losing a loved one, like your wife, to losing your freedom, like being sent to prison.
  • Social isolation. Those who kill themselves often live alone and have little contact with others.
  • Family history of suicide. A personal history of attempted suicide is a risk factor too.
  • Family violence. This includes being a victim of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Unemployment. Research shows that suicide rates increase during times of wide unemployment, especially among working-age men.
  • Being around someone else who attempts suicide. Having a friend or family member who dies by suicide can increase a person's risk.

Suicide attempts are not harmless bids for attention. A person who seems suicidal should not be left alone and needs immediate mental health treatment. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or call 911.

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Content last updated: January 10, 2011.

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