What You Should Know About Preventing Suicide

Many individuals show no signs of intent to harm themselves before doing so, but some behaviors can be a sign they need help. Individuals considering suicide often show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or hopelessness, such as:

  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
  • Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep
  • Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time
  • Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about
  • Frequent and dramatic mood changes
  • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame
  • Feelings of failure or decreased performance
  • Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
  • Talk about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
  • Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems

Their behavior may be a significant change from their normal behavior. They may appear to be actively contemplating or preparing for suicide by:

  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
  • Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Looking as though one has a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
  • Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself

If you know someone who is showing any of the above warning signs, help them they get the help they need. If that person is a teenager, ask the four following questions. If they answer yes to any one of these questions they are in very serious suicide risk.

  1. During the past few weeks have you wished you were dead?
  2. In the past few weeks have you felt that your family might be better off without you?
  3. In the past week have you been having thoughts about killing yourself?
  4. Have your ever tried to kill yourself?

It is always OK to ask someone if they are having suicidal thoughts. Talking about suicide does not "give someone the idea". In many cases, bringing suicide out into the open may be the salvation the suicidal person has been hoping for. Suicide can also be contagious amongst teenagers. Saving one life may save several.


If someone tells you they are suicidal, here are five things you should do.

1) LISTEN - You may be the first person they've told, or you may be the tenth. You might be the first to truly listen.

2) BE SUPPORTIVE - Your support is critical. Believe anyone who says that they are thinking about suicide and let them know that you care about them.

3) KNOW YOUR LIMITS - If you are not a clinician, don't try to be a clinician. You don't need any special knowledge to be supportive, but if you are talking with someone who has specific ideas about how they would end their life, connect them with a crisis center or clinician.


  • WAUKESHA COUNTY 211 FIRST CALL FOR HELP (262) 547-3388 or 211
  • MILWAUKEE COUNTY CRISIS LINE (414) 257-7222 or (414) 257-6300 TDD
  • LiFE OF HOPE - Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Washington County (262)429-1556
  • 1-800-SUICIDE (May be called from anywhere in the USA)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • VETERANS CRISIS LINE 1-800-273-8255 Then Press 1 or Text 838255
  • Teen Suicide Prevention Website: http://www.teensuicide.us/
  • Mayo Clinic, Teen Suicide: What parents need to know

5) DON’T GO IT ALONE - Clinicians get supervision because the things they hear are extremely difficult. So, if you talk with someone about their suicidal thinking, it's important for you to talk to someone else. Ideally, that person has some experience dealing with challenging topics, so that they can be supportive of you. Summit Counseling is ready to help. Call or Text 262-933-1071 now. 


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