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Help a Friend

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Know the Signs

Some behaviors may indicate that a person is at immediate risk for suicide. The following three should prompt you to immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or a mental health professional.

  1. Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  2. Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  3. Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk — especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

These signs are from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center's "Warning Signs for Suicide".

Risk Factors

Suicide is a complex human behavior, with no single determining cause. The factors that affect the likelihood of a person attempting or dying by suicide are known as risk or protective factors, depending on whether they raise or lower the likelihood of suicidal behavior.

Major risk factors for suicide include:

  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Mood disorders
  • Substance abuse 
  • Access to lethal means

Major protective factors include:

  • Effective mental health care 
  • Connectedness
  • Problem-solving skills

The Risk and Protective Factors are from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center's Suicide Prevention Basics website.

Ways to Help - Do's and Don'ts

Our culture places great emphasis on privacy and an individual's right to make his/her own decisions. Thus, it often takes a great deal of courage to reach out to someone who is depressed. In addition, suicide is a taboo topic in our society and one of which many of us are frightened. It may be difficult to decide how to intervene or help someone who is very depressed. However, it is important to reach out when someone you know is depressed; a firm and sensitive approach may be the most caring act on your part.

Suggestions for helping someone who is very depressed and for whom you are concerned may be suicidal are:


  • Approach the person.
  • Listen and ask concerned questions 
  • Offer to accompany the depressed person to meals, for walks, etc.
  • Take seriously every suicidal threat or comment
  • Seek help for yourself and/or the other person
  • Be sensitive to your own needs and limits


  • Offer false reassurances or try to "cheer someone up"
  • Get into intellectual arguments with a suicidal person about whether s/he should live or die or whether suicide is moral or not
  • Be afraid to ask the person whether s/he is thinking about suicide
  • Dismiss or challenge the suicidal remark (don't try to call his/her bluff)

For more information, please visit the CAPS Website.