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Suicide Prevention

 Learn how to protect yourself or a loved one.

People with a substance use disorder have a higher suicide risk than the general population. For people also living with a mental illness, the risk is even higher. Some people use drugs or alcohol to mask or self-medicate in an attempt to numb deep pain or depression. However, using these substances can actually make suffering worse, increasing the risk for suicidal behavior.

The good news is that thoughts of suicide usually pass quickly. By recognizing suicidal feelings or behavior and finding support, you can save a life.

If you are thinking about harming yourself, or if you are worried that someone you care about is at risk for suicide, you are not alone and help is always available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there for you 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also use its online chat to talk with a trained crisis worker. 

Knowing the warning signs 

For anyone who may be at risk for suicide — including yourself — look for signs that tell you a suicide attempt may be coming. These warning signs include:

  • Talking about feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain, or being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly, or displaying extreme mood swings
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated

Some behaviors may indicate that a person is at immediate risk for suicide, such as:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

If you notice any of these warning signs, consider if you can limit access to means for suicide — such as firearms, pills, or drugs — until the person is no longer in crisis. Ask directly if the person is thinking about suicide, and seek immediate help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or a mental health professional.

Connecting with support

If you are thinking about killing yourself: 

Any day, at any time, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or use its online chat. A trained professional is always available to listen to you, provide support, and help to connect you with local resources. Learn what to expect when you call.

If you’re a military veteran, access confidential support from a trained, caring responder at the Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or engage in an online chat at

If you are a family member or friend of someone at risk for suicide:

Suicide risk for someone with a substance use disorder must be taken seriously. Most substances can affect a person's mood, which can heighten the risk for depression and even thoughts of suicide. In addition, most people are at immediate risk for suicide for only a short time, so helping them through the crisis can be lifesaving.

If you are a survivor or have lost someone to suicide:

It can be hard to make sense of what happened or to process the many emotions you may be feeling. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides support for survivors of a suicide attempt and loss. And through the American Association of Suicidology, you can find support groups of fellow survivors around the country.

Ask the question

How do you talk to someone about suicidal thoughts and behaviors? The best way to find out if someone is seriously considering suicide is to ask straightforward questions such as “Have you been thinking about killing yourself?” Asking about suicide will not put the idea in someone’s head — a finding confirmed by more than a dozen studies since 2001. Instead, researchers found that acknowledging and talking about suicide may relieve a person’s suicidal thoughts.

Once you determine that someone is thinking about suicide, you should:


Many local and national resources are available to help. ED-SAFE provides a patient safety screener for clinicians, with questions that correlate to actions to take based on the responses. The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) is another resource that helps identify an individual’s suicide risk through plain-language questions.

Counseling, treatment centers, and other options are available to lower suicide risk and to treat substance use disorders and any other related conditions. People are less likely to consider, attempt, or die by suicide when they have a trusting relationship with a counselor, physician, or other service provider. Find a therapist, support group, and other resources that will work best for you, and help get yourself or someone you care about on the road to recovery today.

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