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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 or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

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 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or a mental health professional.

Find support

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. Any day, at any time, you can get help by calling or texting 988 or chatting online at

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.

Military Veterans: Access confidential support from a trained, caring responder at the Veterans Crisis Line. Call 988 and Press 1, text 838255, or chat online.

Supporting a loved one

If your family member or friend is 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:

  • Immediately take steps to prevent their access to means for suicide, such as firearms, pills, or drugs.


Many local and national resources are available to help identify risk and find treatment options.

Identifying Suicide Risk

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center provides training and resources for people and clinicians, with questions that correlate to actions to take based on the responses. 

The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) provides a list of simple questions that can help identify an individual’s suicide risk.

The Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) is another screening tool from the National Institute of Mental Health. The set of four brief suicide screening questions takes 20 seconds to administer.

Seeking and Obtaining Care

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.

Get Help for a Substance Use Disorder