Suicide Prevention

Written by: Nichole Dabrowski

What is suicide & suicidal ideation?

Suicide is when someone ends their own life. It is usually because that person is in a great deal of pain and does not see a way out of suffering. Before attempting suicide, a person might have suicidal thoughts or suicidal intentions and plans. Suicidal thoughts are general thoughts about dying, sometimes with a method chosen (such as taking pills). Sometimes these thoughts come only as thoughts, without methods or intention to act on them. Suicidal intent is different as it includes suicidal thoughts + active intent to hurt oneself. When someone has suicidal intent and has a specific plan, this is the most dangerous. We know someone is suicidal when they tell us. In all other situations, we go off of signs they are showing. Then we ask. Here are some signs to look out for, per age group.


  • Isolation from friends and family

  • Problems eating or sleeping

  • Mood swings

  • Reckless behavior

  • Dropping grades

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs

  • Giving away belongings

  • Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped

  • Talking about being a burden to others or not belonging

  • Talking about suicide or wanting to die

  • Writing or drawing about suicide, or acting it out in play




  • If a person talks about:

    • Killing themselves

    • Feeling hopeless

    • Having no reason to live

    • Being a burden to others

    • Feeling trapped

    • Unbearable pain

    • Behavior

Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:

    • Increased use of alcohol or drugs

    • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods

    • Withdrawing from activities

    • Isolating from family and friends

    • Sleeping too much or too little

    • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

    • Giving away prized possessions

    • Aggression

    • Fatigue

    • Mood


People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

    • Depression

    • Anxiety

    • Loss of interest

    • Irritability

    • Humiliation/Shame

    • Agitation/Anger

    • Relief/Sudden Improvement


Thoughts and plans about suicide do not make a person bad. They need help and support from people that love and care about them. Sometimes we can have a hard time telling if a friend or family member is having these thoughts. In addition, it can be hard to imagine how or when to approach this person about if they are feeling suicidal. Talking about killing oneself is not easy. However, talking about it should not be avoided because of discomfort. Talking about suicide might feel uncomfortable because of the shameful stigma society places on it. Suicide is a serious topic, but it is not a shameful place to be in—it is a place where a person needs help. We all need help at times.

Some feel that asking about suicide can cause the person to attempt suicide. This is untrue. Talking about suicide with someone you think is suicidal helps them feel heard and seen. Whether that person admits to feeling suicidal or not, they know you are aware of how they appear. They know you care. Here’s how you can go about talking with them:

So how do we talk to someone we think might be very depressed or suicidal?

Find a private space to talk. This respects the privacy of the person you are concerned about. Let them know what you have noticed. It is okay to be direct here. Being clear helps the person in question understand what you’re saying.

Ask them:

Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself?

Do you have intentions/methods to carry out a plan to hurt yourself?

Let them know they are safe and cared for. Thank them for telling you. This can feel very shameful for some people to say outloud and takes bravery & trust.

Validate their feelings by saying things like “this must be so hard” or “I can tell you are having a really hard time”. Do not tell them NOT to feel this way.

If they report thoughts, intentions, or plans, call (800) 273-TALK to receive information about local resources and support. You can talk to a hotline worker who specializes in helping those in crisis.

If this person has a counselor or therapist, help them reach out.

If this person reports being actively suicidal, for example, saying they will be going home and killing themselves, call 911 and stay with them until the police arrive. It is important that a suicidal person is not left alone or with means to hurt themselves.

If the suicidal person is a child, reach out to an adult immediately. If they are actively trying to hurt themselves, call 911.

For more details, see this helpful PDF about how to go about this tough conversation.

It can be difficult to be there for a person who is suicidal because you might feel helpless or confused. It might also feel scary. Trust that your presence means a lot to them. Keep this hotline number saved to your phone and make sure to call it if you are with a person who is having suicidal thoughts or who is suicidal. It is never easy, but you can make a difference. If you or someone you know are experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the hotline number below. Follow up by scheduling an appointment with a counselor here at Owens & Associates Counseling.



Suicide hotline #: (800) 273-TALK

Therapists at Owens Counseling are specially trained to provide mental health support during times of crisis. In-person and video sessions are available with a choice of 15 different clinicians at 6 locations. We’re here to support you and those you care about. Call (847) 854-4333 to schedule an appointment.