Skip to main content

Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

Suicide Prevention

If you or someone you know is in crisis

Call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline  at 988 (para ayuda en español, llame al 988). The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Call 911 in life-threatening situations. If you are worried about a friend’s social media updates, you can contact safety teams at the social media company . They will reach out to connect the person with the help they need.

988 icon for Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

What is suicide?

Suicide is a major public health concern. In 2021, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death overall, claiming the lives of over 48,100 people. Suicide is complicated and tragic, but it is often preventable. Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives.

Suicide is when people harm themselves with the intent of ending their life, and they die as a result.

A suicide attempt is when people harm themselves with the intent of ending their life, but they do not die.

Avoid using terms such as “committing suicide,” “successful suicide,” or “failed suicide” when referring to suicide and suicide attempts, as these terms often carry negative meanings.

What are the warning signs of suicide?

Warning signs that someone may be at immediate risk for attempting suicide include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, such as making a will
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often

Other serious warning signs that someone may be at risk for attempting suicide include:

  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Making a plan or looking for ways to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling great guilt or shame
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Changing eating or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

Suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress and should not be ignored.. 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.

Here are five steps you can take to #BeThe1To help someone in emotional pain:

Presents five steps for helping someone in emotional pain in order to prevent suicide: Ask, Keep Them Safe, Be There, Help Them Connect, and Stay Connected.
  1. ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals  if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  3. BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide  may reduce rather than increase  suicidal thoughts.
  4. HELP THEM CONNECT: Save the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number (call or text 988) in your phone so they’re there if you need them. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  5. STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown  the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.

What are the risk factors for suicide?

People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behavior is complex, and there is no single cause. The main risk factors for suicide are:

  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance use disorder
  • Chronic pain
  • Personal history of suicide attempts
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance use
  • Family history of suicide
  • Exposure to family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Presence of guns or other firearms in the home
  • Having recently been released from prison or jail

For people with suicidal thoughts, exposure, either directly or indirectly, to others' suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities can also be a risk factor.

Most people who have risk factors will not attempt suicide, and it is difficult to tell who will act on suicidal thoughts. Although risk factors for suicide are important to keep in mind, someone who is actively showing warning signs of suicide may be at higher risk for danger and in need immediate attention.

Stressful life events (such as the loss of a loved one, legal troubles, or financial difficulties) and interpersonal stressors (such as shame, harassment, bullying, discrimination, or relationship troubles) may contribute to suicide risk, especially when they occur along with suicide risk factors.

Family and friends are often the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and they can take the first step toward helping a loved one find mental health treatment. See NIMH’s page with resources for finding help for mental illnesses if you're not sure where to start.

Identifying people at risk for suicide

What treatments and therapies are available for people at risk for suicide?

Effective, evidence-based interventions are available to help people who are at risk for suicide.

Brief interventions


Multiple types of psychosocial interventions have been found to help individuals who have attempted suicide (see below). These types of interventions may prevent someone from making another attempt.


Some individuals at risk for suicide might benefit from medication. People can work with their health care providers to find the best medication or medication combination, as well as the right dose. Many people at risk for suicide often have a mental illness or substance use problems and may benefit from medication along with psychosocial intervention.

Clozapine is an antipsychotic medication used primarily to treat individuals with schizophrenia. To date, it is the only medication with a specific U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indication  for reducing the risk of recurrent suicidal behavior in patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

If you are prescribed a medication, be sure you:

  • Talk with a health care provider to make sure you understand the risks and benefits of the medications you're taking.
  • Do not stop taking a medication without talking to your health care provider first. Suddenly stopping a medication may lead to worsening of symptoms. Other uncomfortable or potentially dangerous withdrawal effects also are possible.
  • Report any concerns about side effects to a health care provider right away. They can help determine whether you need a change in the dose or a different medication.
  • Report serious side effects to the FDA MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program  online or by phone at 1-800-332-1088. You or your health care provider may send a report.

To find the latest information about medications, talk to a health care provider and visit the FDA website .

Collaborative care

Collaborative care is a team-based approach to mental health care. A behavioral health care manager will work with the person, their primary health care provider, and mental health specialists to develop a treatment plan. Collaborative care has been shown to be an effective way to treat depression and reduce suicidal thoughts.

How can I find help for mental health concerns?

If you’re not sure where to get help, a health care provider can refer you to a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Find tips to help prepare for and get the most out of your visit and information about getting help.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has an online treatment locator  to help you find mental health services in your area.

Where can I learn about NIMH research on suicide?

NIMH supports promising research that is likely to have an impact on reducing suicide in the United States. Research is helping improve our ability to identify people at risk for suicide and develop and improve effective treatments. NIMH researchers continue to study suicide and how to best implement suicide prevention and intervention programs in different contexts, including in health care, community, school, and justice system settings.

Learn more about NIMH research priorities and recent research on suicide prevention.

Latest news

Photo of a pair of woman’s hands holding another woman’s hand on a table.
Saving Lives Through the Science of Suicide Prevention

Feature Story

Evidence-based efforts to improve suicide risk screening, assessment, and intervention are helping to save lives, thanks to research supported by NIMH.

Continue reading

Diverse group of doctors and nurses looking together at a tablet in a doctor's hand.
Emergency Department Intervention Reduces Adult Suicide Risk

Research Highlight

Evidence-based practices for suicide prevention effectively reduced suicidal behaviors among adults seen for care in emergency departments.

Continue reading

Emergency department sign at a hospital
Youth Emergency Department Visits for Mental Health Increased During Pandemic

Research Highlight

Hospital visits for urgent mental health care increased among children and teens in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an NIMH-supported study.

Continue reading

Where can I learn more about suicide prevention?

Free brochures and shareable resources

  • Frequently Asked Questions About Suicide: This brochure provides information about suicide including risk factors, symptoms and warning signs, treatment options and therapies, how to find help for yourself or others, and research about suicide and suicide prevention.
  • Warning Signs of Suicide: This NIMH infographic presents behaviors and feelings that may be warnings signs that someone is thinking about suicide.
  • 5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain: This NIMH Infographic presents five steps for helping someone in emotional pain in order to prevent suicide.
  • Digital Shareables on Suicide Prevention: These digital resources from NIMH, including graphics and messages, can be used to spread the word about suicide prevention and help promote awareness and education in your community.

Federal resources

  • The African American Youth Suicide: Report to Congress is a response by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that builds upon the 2019 Congressional Black Caucus report, “Ring the Alarm: The Crisis of Black Suicide in America.” The report examines patterns of youth suicide by race and ethnicity, what is known about youth suicide decedent characteristics, information on risk and protective factors, interventions, and remaining knowledge gaps.
  • The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)  is the only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the implementation of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. SPRC is funded by SAMHSA.
  • The American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) National Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan is a national initiative addressing suicide prevention, based on fostering collaborations across Tribes, Tribal organizations, Urban Indian organizations, and the Indian Health Service (IHS). The IHS Suicide Prevention and Care Program site  provides resources to support suicide prevention efforts, and to help communities and individuals understand and obtain services related to suicide.
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Suicide Prevention webpage  provides resources for communities and states to support suicide prevention efforts.
  • MedlinePlus  offers information about suicide from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  • National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention  is a public-private partnership working to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
  • The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention  outlines the actions that communities and individuals can take to reduce the rates of suicide and help improve resilience.
  • #BeThe1To  is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s message to spread the word about actions everyone can take to prevent suicide.
  • Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) is free screening resource for medical settings (e.g., emergency departments, inpatient medical/surgical units, outpatient clinics/primary care) that can help nurses or physicians successfully identify youth at risk for suicide.


Crisis hotlines

  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline : The Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. Call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. Support is also available via live chat at . Para ayuda en español, llame al 988.
  • Disaster Distress Helpline : People affected by any disaster or tragedy can call this helpline, sponsored by SAMHSA, to receive immediate counseling. Call 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained professional from the closest crisis counseling center within the network.
  • Veterans Crisis Line : This helpline is a free, confidential resource for veterans of all ages and circumstances. Call 988, then press 1; text 838255; or chat online  to connect with 24/7 support.

Resources for media

Research and statistics



  • Statistics: Suicide: This NIMH webpage provides information on the statistics currently available about suicide rates in the U.S.
  • Data and Statistics (WISQARS):  This CDC resource is an interactive, online database that provides data on fatal injuries and violent deaths.

Last Reviewed: August 2023

Unless otherwise specified, the information on our website and in our publications is in the public domain and may be reused or copied without permission. However, you may not reuse or copy images. Please cite the National Institute of Mental Health as the source. Read our copyright policy to learn more about our guidelines for reusing NIMH content.