A Suicide Prevention Toolkit: Getting Through Thoughts of Suicide and Preventing Future Crises

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Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia – all of these mental illnesses can lead someone to suicide. In fact, 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their death. There isn’t just one cause of suicide, though. Mental illnesses coupled with negative life experiences, such as bullying, divorce, abuse, or substance abuse, can trigger someone. If you’re having thoughts of suicide or have ever had thoughts of suicide, know that there are people you can reach out to, and through long-term prevention strategies, you can stay safe and avoid a crisis.

Emergency Resources

If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, get help immediately. Don’t try to manage the suicidal thoughts on your own. Call your mental health professional or a suicide hotline number at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to speak to a trained counselor. You can also call 911, a loved one, or someone in your spiritual community. Consider checking yourself into a mental health facility.

You may also get help by going to a support group meeting or calling someone from your support group. There are many online self-help groups, including the Suicide Forum. The Veteran’s Crisis Line website has a live chat feature, or you can text the organization if you don’t want to speak with someone over the phone.

The Facts

While the numbers about suicide are the most accurate ones available, experts believe the rates are actually higher. Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding suicide, it’s often underreported, and the data collection methods need improvement. In the US, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death with 44,193 Americans dying by suicide each year. Every day, 121 people die by suicide.

Men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women, and Native Americans commit suicide more than any other race. While teens get a bad rap for suicide rates, younger groups actually have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. In 2015, the age range with the most suicides was between 45 and 64, and the second most was age 85 and over.

There isn’t an official count for suicide attempts in the United States. The closest data is the CDC’s record of injuries due to self-harm, which tallied up to 494,169 people. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that many people attempted suicide; some people self-harm without the intent to commit suicide. Also, this number only accounts for hospitalized individuals.

Long-term Prevention Strategies

Through sessions with a mental health profession, you can learn coping skills and strategies tailored to your specific situation. Your doctor will help you form a written plan of action or a “safety plan” to refer to when you’re considering suicide or in a crisis. By learning to spot your warning signs early, you can put your safety plan into action before you reach crisis mode.

Most safety plans are a checklist of activities and actions you promise to do in order to stay safe when you have thoughts of suicide. The steps typically include contacting your therapist or a crisis center, calling a supportive loved one, reviewing why your life is valuable and worth living, and trying specific healthy and enjoyable activities.


Participating in healthy and pleasurable activities can boost your mood. Some people find music cheers them up, while others watch a funny movie, go for a walk, or dig around the garden. Just find something that you enjoy, and go do it every day. Spending time with loved ones and friends when you need them is important, but you should also spend time with them on a regular basis.

Form a support network of family, friends, and neighbors. You may also join a support group. Some people find improvement from writing about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Others find great help from a service animal. Most people think of service animals for people with physical disabilities, but service animals are also beneficial for people suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more.

By getting proper treatment and learning effective coping strategies for the future, you can manage or eliminate suicidal thoughts and develop a more satisfying life. Getting to this point won’t be easy – and it certainly won’t happen overnight – but it is achievable, and you don’t have to do it alone. Eventually, the sense of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide will lift and give way to feelings of happiness and enjoyment.