A person comforting a loved one while discussing suicide.
Healthy Living

How to Talk to a Loved One About Suicide

Sep 10 2021

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

In the United States, suicide is disturbingly among the leading causes of death. According to the CDC, in 2019 alone there were 47,511 suicide deaths. Additionally, in 2020 and this current year, many individuals continue to struggle with mental health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suicide is tragic not only for the one whose life is cut short, but also for family members and friends left behind after a death. Knowing the warning signs and ways you can help is a start in keeping your loved ones safe.

Common suicide warning signs

There’s no single cause for suicide. Conditions like depression, anxiety, substance problems, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, losing a loved one, financial burdens, even physical illness can all increase the risk for suicide. The overriding symptom is hopelessness. People see no light at the end of the tunnel.

However, there are common warning signs to look out for: 

  • Talking about wanting to die or killing oneself
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Being in unbearable pain
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Giving away possessions
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated

Talking to a loved one about suicide

Talking to a friend or family member about suicidal thoughts can be difficult. First and foremost, it important to give the person a chance to express their negative  feelings as it might be able to provide some relief. Don’t judge what they have to say.

Try starting the conversation with, “I have been worried about you lately and have noticed some changes in your behavior; you don’t seem like yourself. Is something bothering you?”

Other questions you can ask are:

  • When did you begin feeling like this?
  • What happened that made you start feeling this way?
  • How can I best support you right now?
  • Have you thought about getting help?

If you or a loved one needs to talk to someone about suicide right away, call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Learn about behavioral and mental health services we offer at Mercy Health.

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Post a Comment


Do you have classes for family or friends of loved ones
September 28th, 2018 | 12:44pm

Mercy Health

Hi Denise, thanks for reaching out. We don't have any upcoming group classes for this topic, however we do offer various counseling options. You can use our Find a Doctor tab on mercy.com to find someone near you.
October 01st, 2018 | 8:26am

MaryAnn Miller

What happens when you call the hotline
October 05th, 2018 | 4:00pm

Mercy Health

Hi MaryAnn, thanks for reaching out. You will be connected with someone who can walk you through your situation and make suggestions, where appropriate.
October 08th, 2018 | 7:59am


Part of Mercy for a long time and was not aware of the 24/7 behavioral health crisis line. Most appreciated the information in this article, Simple, straight forward information here. Finding all the articles., including the current discussion of opioid crisis, very informative. Know that the whole discussion is not that simple, but good food for thought in wrapping your head around this health crisis.
October 11th, 2018 | 11:28am

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