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How to Respond to Expressions of Suicidal Intent ; Suicide Prevention; Suicide Facts

Abstract: Suicide facts and prevention: How to help prevent a person, who thinks about suicide, from doing it.

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How to Respond to Expressions of Suicidal Intent ; Suicide Prevention; Suicide Facts

Intelligent natural language question-answering in the area of psychology and psychiatry. Ask a simple question  Local help Info

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Written by:
  1. Petros Skapinakis, MD, MPH, PhD, lecturer of Psychiatry in the University of Ioannina Medical School, Greece.
  2. Eva Gerasi, postgraduate student in the Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Ioannina, Greece.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 07 Nov 2010.

Someone tells me he or she wants to commit suicide. What should I do? Describe suicide prevention.


If you are considering suicide, always first talk to someone, whom you trust, and with whom you can discuss your problems. Many countries have special phone numbers you can call to discuss your situation when considering suicide.

In a situation when someone expresses an intention to commit suicide, you should try not to get upset or embarrassed. Keep yourself calm and encourage the person to explain more in detail why and how he/she intends to commit suicide. There is an apprehension that talking about suicide is a scream for help and even if it is true in that sense that the last way for someone in an intolerable situation is to commit suicide, you cannot completely trust that it is not seriously and literally meant.

There are some factors that prevent people from realizing their thoughts to commit suicide. They are arguments you can use to get the person to abandon thoughts about suicide. One such argument is worry about making ones children upset or leave dependent children vulnerable. Thoughts that it is sinful to commit suicide and imaginations about shame may also be protective for some people. Fear of a physical handicap or disfiguration caused by an unsuccessful suicide attempt can in some cases keep people away from suicide.

It is important to immediately steer the person away from the impulse to commit suicide, even if this is only done for a few minutes, the chance is larger that one will avoid suicide.

Written by Maria Wiklander, Certified Psychologist, Center for psychiatry, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm.

Thoughts to commit suicide should always be taken seriously. There is a risk that the person in question really tries to commit suicide. It is difficult to judge the risk. Hence, one should try to support the person to discuss with a doctor. One can contact a psychiatrist or speak with the house doctor. In most cases it is possible to find a treatment that can help the person to feel better.

People without serious risk for committing suicide can still have thoughts and imaginations of committing suicide, and that is an expression for that the person is unhappy. A conversation with a doctor can investigate the risk and be of help to the problem that has caused these thoughts. Hence, it is never unnecessary to seek professional help if you suffer from this kind of thoughts.

If a person tells you about his/hers thoughts to commit suicide, it can be of help if you listen to what the person says. That can function as "the first help" for the person that is close to commit suicide. It does not matter if you feel unsure of what to say. What is important though is that the person notices that you listen and take the conversation seriously. Since it is difficult to determine how serious the risk for committing suicide is, you should support the person to contact a doctor. If you are a child and hears about someone's thoughts to commit suicide, you should try to get help from an adult. It can save lives,even though it feels like you are betraying someone's confidence. By immediate danger for somebody's life - call the emergency number (911 in the U.S.A., 112 in most European Countries).

People who commit suicide often go through a shorter or longer process, where the thoughts to commit suicide come and go with different strength. This is called a suicide process . Sometimes the person might feel that thoughts about relatives and friends prevent him or her from committing suicide. Speech with good friends may temporarily help the person to see more positively at the situation. Other periods though, the person may be more vulnerable. Depressed people often feel worse in the mornings, while others may feel worse in the evenings. Loneliness, alcohol, tiredness, etc., are examples of other risk factors that may cause thoughts to turn into impulses to commit suicide. So, it is of great importance to be observant about all communication involving thoughts to commit suicide and investigate why the person has these thoughts and what kind of support the person needs.

It is important to know that there is help available, no matter what the causes for these thoughts are. Even people that have had serious thoughts to commit suicide for a long time and people that have made many attempts to commit suicide, can, with the correct support and treatment, find motivation and energy to be able to continue living.

More about suicide in Web4Health

Intelligent natural language question-answering in the area of psychology and psychiatry. Ask a simple question:
Local help Info
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Disclaimer: The documents contained in this web site are presented for information purposes only. The material is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified psychiatrist or psychotherapist. It can not and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. If you find anything wrong, please notify us at .
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