How to identify and help a suicidal person

ST. LOUIS, MO — This is suicide prevention month. Licensed clinical social worker with SSM Health Depaul Hospital, Cassie Wichlenski, has some tips to identify and help someone who is suicidal.

How to spot suicidal behavior:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
    Giving away personal items one covets
  • 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 isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

How to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don't dare him or her to do it.
  • Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.

Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

  • 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • 1-800-811-4760 Behavioral Health Response (BHR)
  • 1-800-426-2083 SSM Health Behavioral Health Services