We all experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, frustration, and overwhelm from time to time—they’re part of being human. But when difficult emotions linger for long periods, when it feels hard to do things you usually enjoy or that are important to you, or when feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of self-harm arise, it’s time to get support. Pay attention to the warning signs, and know where to reach out for help.
How to tell whether you or someone you love is in crisis
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While it is complicated, knowing the warning signs can help you find support and possibly save a life.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the following behaviors may be signs someone is thinking about taking their life:
- Expressing that they want to die or to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
- Planning or researching ways to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
- Talking about great guilt or shame
- Feeling unbearable emotional pain or physical pain
- Expressing that they are a burden to others
- Using alcohol or drugs more often
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Talking about feeling trapped or that there are no solutions
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Eating and/or sleeping habits change drastically
- 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
- Giving away important possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Putting affairs in order, making a will
- Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
Suicidal thoughts or actions indicate extreme distress and should not be ignored. Get help as soon as possible if the above behaviors describe you or someone you love.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number, 1-800-273-8255. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Mental Health Resources
Experts emphasize that getting help quickly is crucial to anyone in crisis and calling an anonymous help line like the ones listed below can be a powerful first step. The trained counselors who answer can make suggestions, and connect callers with the right organizations.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. They provide education programs, work to shape national public policy, and provide a toll-free help line.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. Their mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities. In addition, SAMHSA has a help line and provides resources for finding treatment.
More Suicide Prevention Resources
If you’re experiencing a strong urge to harm yourself, turn to one of these 24/7 helplines.
The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LBGTQ+ youth. They have additional resources on their website, including a chat feature. You can also text with them send TREVOR to 202-304-1200.