Don’t Be Afraid to Ask: Talking About Suicide Can Save a Life

A panel of experts from around the Main Line offer straightforward advice about the complicated issues today’s teenagers face.

Adobe Stock / Pixel-Shot

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It’s everyone’s job to recognize the signs of depression and step in to help save a life.

Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss and perhaps even harder for many of us to understand. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the United States—and suicide rates have steadily increased. A common misconception is that asking someone if they feel suicidal may encourage an attempt. But studies indicate that talking about it could be the first step in saving someone’s life.

September is National Suicide Prevention month. On Sept. 10, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention kicks off a weeklong campaign to inform and engage health professionals and the public about suicide prevention and the warning signs of suicide. They offer some crucial information:

Common Risk Factors

– A recent medical illness.

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– A family history of suicide and/or psychopathology.

– A recent negative life event like losing a loved one or a job.

– Current substance abuse.

What to Do If You or a Loved One Feels Suicidal

Never minimize. All suicidal thoughts and behaviors are serious and should be acknowledged as such.

Gently ask the person if they have thoughts of ending their life. Often people are afraid to do so. But talking about suicidal thoughts can actually help to decrease such feelings. Communication is key.

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Find appropriate counseling and psychiatric treatment. Effective options are available.

Create a safety plan. When possible, encourage the person to develop a safety plan with the guidance of a trained mental health professional. Such plans identify triggers and the steps you can take to reduce suicidal thoughts.


Crisis Text Line: Text “HERE” to 741741

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255,

Veteran Crisis Line (for active U.S. service members, veterans and family members): (800) 273-8255,, (SMS) 838255

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The Trevor Project (for LGBT youth, friends and family members): (866) 488-7386,

RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673,

Related: Star-Studded Short Film “Bug Therapy” Helps Destigmatize Mental Health

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