September 10, 2020

How you can help prevent suicide

When someone is struggling, it can be hard to know what to do, how to act, or what to say. Learn the steps you can take to have a positive impact.

Help is available for anyone considering suicide and for those who are concerned about a friend or loved one.

If you thought a friend or loved one was considering suicide, what would you do?

It’s important to be prepared for these situations and to know that there is hope, especially when concerns about mental health, substance misuse, and thoughts of suicide are on the rise.

“We’re seeing an increase in suicidal ideation among teens and young adults since the pandemic started that’s quite dramatic,” said Cambria Bruschke, who holds a master’s in social work and is Kaiser Permanente’s national project lead for suicide prevention. In a June 2020 survey of more than 5,000 Americans, 11% said they had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days. For respondents between 18 and 24 years old, the number was 25%.

The statistics are alarming, and Kaiser Permanente mental health professionals recommend specific, deliberate actions you can take to help support those you love.

Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide directly

Whether you’re thinking about suicide or concerned about someone else, the most important thing is to talk about it. If someone confides in you, you can simply listen and encourage them to seek help.

“Some people worry that bringing up the topic of suicide with someone they are concerned about may put the idea in their mind,” said Bruschke, “but we know from the research that this isn’t the case. We need to be able to ask people directly if they’re having thoughts of harming themselves.”

Don’t be afraid to have direct conversations. If you’re concerned, simply ask: “Have you been thinking about suicide?”

Check out Find Your Words for more suggestions about how to bring up the topic with friends and family members in a nonthreatening and nonjudgmental way.

Educate yourself

Take the time to learn about suicide. Learn what to say and what to do if someone you know is struggling.

“One of my favorite campaigns is Take 5 to Save Lives,” said Bruschke, “which guides you through 5 simple things you can do to get involved and stay informed.”

Know the warning signs

Keep an eye out for any changes, especially in behavior. Listen for expressions of worthlessness, sadness, isolation, or anger. Watch for either acting out or withdrawal, especially in teenagers.

Create safe places

If someone you know has considered specific methods for self-harm, help them remove all easy access to that method from their immediate environment. For instance, if someone has considered using a gun for self-harm, removing all firearms or safely locking them away can make all the difference in a crisis.

“This is called ‘means restriction,’ and it is one of the most important and effective interventions available,” explained David Camplin, licensed marriage and family therapist and director of mental health for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. “Any step that puts a barrier between thoughts of suicide and a potential means for acting on those thoughts creates the space for a different choice.”

Get help when needed

Help and resources are available for anyone considering suicide and for people who are concerned about a friend or loved one.

Kaiser Permanente members can get connected to care at

For immediate help for any mental health crisis, including thoughts of suicide, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

If you feel like you can’t cope or that your life isn’t worth living — or if you need crisis resources for a loved one — get help now. People are available 24/7 to support you.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Crisis Text Line

Text WORDS to 741741.