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Home > Health Library > Suicidal Thoughts or Threats
Suicide occurs almost twice as often as murder. Each year, about 36,000 people in the United States die by suicide. In the U.S.:footnote 1
Many people have fleeting thoughts of death. Fleeting thoughts of death are less of a problem and are much different from actively planning to try suicide. Your risk of suicide is increased if you think about death and killing yourself often, or if you have made a suicide plan.
Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. A person who feels hopeless believes that no one can help with a particular event or problem. A person who feels helpless is immobilized and unable to take steps to solve problems. A person who feels worthless is overwhelmed with a sense of personal failure.
Most people who seriously consider or attempt suicide have one or more of the following risks:
The warning signs of suicide change with age.
Anytime someone talks about suicide or about wanting to die or disappear, even in a joking manner, the conversation must be taken seriously. A suicide attempt—even if the attempt did not harm the person—also must be taken seriously. Don't be afraid to talk to someone you think may be considering suicide. There is no proof that talking about suicide leads to suicidal thinking or suicide. Once you know the person's thoughts on the subject, you may be able to help prevent a suicide.
People who have suicidal thoughts may not seek help because they feel they cannot be helped. This usually is not the case. Many people with suicidal thoughts have medical conditions that can be successfully treated. People who have suicidal thoughts often have depression or substance use disorder, and both of these conditions can be treated. It is important to seek help when suicidal thoughts occur because medical treatment usually is successful in diminishing these thoughts.
The possibility of suicide is most serious when a person has a plan for suicide that includes:
People who are considering suicide often are undecided about choosing life or death. With compassionate help, they may choose to live.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor or get other help.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
The risk of a suicide attempt is highest if:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
The National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255 is also a resource.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone about your feelings. It is important to remember that there are people who are willing and able to talk with you about your suicidal thoughts. With proper treatment, most suicidal people can be helped to feel better about life.
People for you to consider talking with include:
You may be able to help someone who is considering suicide.
Call your doctor if any of the following symptoms occur before you see your health professional:
Suicide can be prevented. While some suicides occur without warning, most do not. You can learn to recognize the warning signs of suicide and take action when the signs are present. Take action to evaluate your suspicions if you think that someone you know is considering suicide.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your health professional diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Suicide: Fact sheet. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/suicide/index.html.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineDavid Messenger MD
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & David Messenger MD
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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