Suicide-Who Is At Risk?

Suicide-Who Is At Risk?

Suicide – Who is at risk?

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

  • Psalm 34:18

Robin Williams.

Anthony Bourdain.

Kate Spade.

Ernest Hemingway.

Virginia Woolf.

More than likely, you recognize at least one or two of those names. If not, you would surely recognize some of the dozens of others that appear after a quick Google search of two words: “celebrity suicide.” Celebrity suicides garner national attention, many express heartbreak over the needless loss of life, many cry for more public emphasis on mental health and suicide prevention, and then the wounded fade into the background once more, lost in the next news cycle. 

But that is not enough. 

Many of us know someone who has been suicidal, engaged in a suicide attempt, or committed suicide. Seeing news stories about celebrity death can drive home a sense of fear and helplessness – If they, who seem to have it all, could not be happy, how can my loved one survive? How can I? 

We feel helpless in the face of such an insidious enemy, and humans do not like to feel helpless. Often, we do our best to forget or to not think about that fear. If I do not speak it, it will not come to pass. 

That is not enough. And it does not work.

Who is at risk for suicide?

The factors below increase someone’s risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior, even though someone can exhibit these factors and not be suicidal. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they have a family history of suicide, including parents, siblings, or partners?
  • Were they abused as a child?
  • Have they been the victim of bullying?
  • Have they tried to commit suicide before?
  • Do they have a history of mental health issues, especially depression?
  • Have they self-harmed before? 
  • Have they struggled with alcohol and/or substance abuse?
  • Do they seem hopeless?
  • Do they tend to be impulsive or aggressive?
  • Have they experienced recent trauma or abuse?
  • Has there been a recent “epidemic” of suicide (many people committing suicide in a short time frame)?
  • Are they isolated?
  • Have they had a significant loss recently – relationship, friendship, work, or financial?
  • Are they chronically ill or have chronic pain?
  • Do they have easy access to lethal methods (guns, pills, etc.)? 
  • Are they generally unwilling to seek help? 

This list is long, but it is not exhaustive. If you or someone you know meets one or more of the criteria on this list, it’s a good idea to reach out to them. COVID has left many people feeling isolated, depressed, and anxious. If your instinct tells you that something is not right, listen to it! 

What are signs that someone might be suicidal?

These behaviors below might indicate that someone is thinking about suicide:

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • 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
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

This list might seem overwhelming, but it too is not exhaustive. Additionally, just because someone is displaying one or two of these behaviors does not mean that they are definitely suicidal, but these are reasons to pay attention

I’m concerned for someone I love. What should I do?

The National Institute of Mental Health has a helpful 5-step action plan for responding to someone in emotional pain:

  1. ASK: Ask them “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” A big myth is that asking someone if they are planning or thinking about killing themselves will increase the likelihood that they will do it. Studies show that this is not true. Many hurting individuals want help with their pain but do not know how to ask – you can help them start the conversation. 
  1. KEEP THEM SAFE: Reduce the person’s immediate access to lethal items or places. When walking parents through a safety plan if their child is suicidal, I frequently recommend that they lock away their guns/weapons and pills, even sharp objects like knives when necessary. For adults, placing those objects in the care of a trusted friend, if possible, or, if not possible, having a friend come stay with them temporarily until professional help can be obtained. 
  1. BE THERE: Listen to what they’re experiencing. Talking about feelings and thoughts can release some of the immediate pressure. Remember, however, that you are not their therapist. Urge them to connect with someone who is trained to handle these situations! 
  1. HELP THEM CONNECT: Urge them to reach out to friends and family members, as well as professional care, such as a pastor or counselor. Connection is the antidote to isolation. A professional can help them make lasting change in their lives that can offer a more thorough healing. Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number (1-800-273-TALK [8255]) and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741) in your phone so you have it when you need it.
  1. STAY CONNECTED: Be a friend! Keep in touch with them even after the immediate crisis is over. Building strong connections can help prevent a future crisis from occurring. 

If you feel as though a friend or loved one might be in danger from themselves, speak up! Urge them to seek help – a professional counselor or therapist is a great place to start. Your church staff can help you connect them with a resource, if necessary. If the person you’re concerned about is a child or teenager, their parents need to know that their child is struggling. 

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, DO NOT HESITATE. Call 911 or emergency services right away! 

For you, loved one, remember – you are not responsible for the choices of others. All we can do is the best we can do! God is the only one who is all-powerful, and our lives are in His very capable hands. In the face of helplessness, many people take responsibility on themselves that they are ill-equipped to handle. Do not attempt this alone! Reach out and ask for help – allow others to love you by helping you. 

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

  • Psalm 34:18

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

The Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential phone line.

Crisis Text Line – 741741

Lifeline Online Chat –