The following guide is for informational purposes only and not intended to diagnose or give medical advice.
Trigger Warning: This guide provides sensitive information that some people may find disturbing. Proceed with caution and note the Resources for Help at the bottom of this page.
What is Suicide?
Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die.
Language of Suicide
Suicide Attempt: A suicide attempt is when someone harms themselves with any intent to end their life, but they do not die as a result of their actions.
Suicidal Ideation: Thinking about, considering, or planning suicide..
Suicidal Behavior: Acting in ways that may cause intentional death.
Suicide Plan: Developing a series of steps that lead to a suicide attempt.
Safety Plan: A Safety Plan is a prioritized written list of coping strategies and sources of support patients can use who have been deemed to be at high risk for suicide.
(CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/facts/index.html; NIMH, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide; Stanford, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=teen-suicide-90-P02584; Suicide Prevention Resource Center, https://sprc.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/SafetyPlanningGuide-Quick-Guide-for-Clinicians.pdf)
Facts About Suicide (You are not alone)
Suicide rates increased approximately 36% between 2000–2021. Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes. The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2021, an estimated 12.3 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.7 million attempted suicide.
Suicide affects people of all ages. In 2021, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34.
Some groups have higher suicide rates than others. By race/ethnicity, the groups with the highest rates are non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native people followed by non-Hispanic White people. Other Americans with higher-than-average rates of suicide are veterans, people who live in rural areas, and workers in certain industries and occupations like mining and construction. Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual have higher prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behavior compared to their peers who identify as heterosexual.
For a comprehensive list of McFarlin databases consult our A-Z Database List. Databases may require you sign into the library system before viewing; you will be automatically prompted if a login is necessary.
Common Feelings of Hopelessness
When to get help
Here are some warning signs to watch out for if you or someone you know is struggling with hopelessness:
How to Help a Loved One or Friend
Check in with them gently. Ask questions in a way that lets your friend know you care. Be open to listening to them, and respect that there may be things they don’t feel comfortable sharing. You may want to know more, but prying may cause the person to withdraw and make sharing harder for them down the line.
Be patient. Talking about their feelings may be difficult, scary, or overwhelming. Be respectful of what they feel ready to share with you. Show them you are a safe space for them to share their feelings at their own pace.
Show empathy. Don’t try to fix their situation, make them see the bright side of things, or shame them for feeling hopeless. (“But you have so much going for you!”) Instead, start with listening and then let them know you have heard them and understand this is a hard time. You can even repeat back to them what you have heard so they know you are working to understand what they are going through.
Offer support. But offer it in ways that won’t harm or exhaust you. Support can range from just listening to more hands-on help like helping them find professional support.
Encourage them to seek professional help. There is a limit to what kinds of support friends can provide. Let your friend know a trained mental health professional, such as a school counselor or therapist, can provide help specific to their situation.
Share your own experiences. If you have struggled with hopelessness, sharing your experience and what brought you hope can make your friend feel less alone.
Keep inviting them to activities. Sometimes people who feel hopeless will withdraw from friends or activities they enjoy. Inviting them to spend time with you may help them feel less isolated and give them new positive experiences to look forward to.
Take it seriously if they mention self-injury or suicide. Do not keep it a secret, even if they ask you to.
Things Someone Might Say or Think
Things Someone Might Do
Ways Someone Might Feel
Any of these signs can indicate that someone is considering suicide or that they are experiencing serious emotional distress and need support right away.
It is also possible that someone is thinking about suicide and not showing any of these signs.
The bottom line is: If you’re worried about yourself or a friend, trust that instinct and take action.
How to Ask Someone if They are Thinking about Suicide
There are a few important things you should know. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. Many teens and young adults feel sad and hopeless, and some think about suicide. That doesn’t mean they’ll act on those thoughts, but it also doesn’t mean they’re just trying to get attention. It means they need help—sometimes immediately. The best things you can do are reach out to someone you are worried about and believe someone who tells you they need help.
Try phrases like:
“I’m worried because I noticed you [insert things you’ve noticed]. How can I help you through this?”
“It seems like you have been up and down lately. I’ve been there myself. Talking about it really helps.”
You may feel the urge to tell your loved one about all the things they have going for them to try to cheer them up, but that will feel dismissive and make them less likely to open up to you. Here are some alternatives. What not to say:
“But you’ve got so much going for you!”
“What would I do without you?”
“Think of what this would do to X, Y, Z person.”
What to say instead:
“What you’re feeling sounds really painful and difficult. I don’t have all the answers, but I am here to listen.”
“I’m so glad you told me this. Let’s keep talking."
“I understand you are really struggling, and I am here to listen.”
If your friend, family member, or loved one is thinking of suicide, they need professional support and the most powerful thing you can do is connect them to it. Here are some things you can say: “Let’s connect you with someone who is trained to help you, like a school counselor or therapist.” “I know there are hotlines with trained counselors you can talk to in confidence. Would you like me to stay with you while you text one?”
If someone is thinking of suicide, they need professional support. It isn’t something you can keep secret. It is possible that they could be upset with you in the short term, but you need to do what’s best for them in the long run.
See the box "Getting Help" below to find resources to get help now.
How to Tell Someone You are Thinking about Suicide
Telling someone you are having thoughts about suicide is a brave act, and it can be difficult to do. Sharing your feelings is important, though, because it is the first step toward finding help. If you are feeling suicidal, you are likely feeling hopeless or helpless. Connecting with someone and sharing your feelings can help you feel supported and give you hope. It can be a huge relief to share your feelings, because it means you no longer have to struggle alone.
Think about a person in your life who is a good listener, shows empathy and compassion, and thinks before they react.
It may be easier to send a text first to tell your trusted person you need to talk about something important. Try this: “I have something important to tell you. I’m hoping we can talk alone soon.” A simple text like this communicates the importance of the conversation so your helper knows to set aside distraction-free time to focus on you.
When you tell someone how you’re feeling, they may not know exactly how to respond and may have follow up questions. Think about how you will answer these questions:
These questions may sound scary or overwhelming, but honest answers will help the person who is helping you know what to do.
Hopefully your person will take you seriously right away. But, if you aren’t feeling heard, you could say something like, “I really need you to hear me and help me. I am scared, and I need you.” If your chosen person does not help you, keep reaching out until someone does.
If you are having suicidal thoughts but you’re not worried about harming yourself right away, be clear about that. The person who is helping you may not be sure if they need to reach out for more help or bring you to an emergency room, and letting them know that you are safe for the moment (if you are) is important.
You don’t need to soften it for your support person. You chose them because you trust them to listen and help.
It is OK, however, to start by sharing how you’re feeling about having this conversation. You could start with something like this: “I’m feeling anxious to tell you this, but I really need to get it out. It might take me a minute to find the right words.”
Pausing here actually gives you a chance to process and think through what you want to say next. Focus on your feelings and thoughts. Here are some phrases you could try:
“For the past [insert length of time], I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed/depressed/hopeless and having thoughts of suicide.”
“I think about dying [insert how often], and I’ve been experiencing other changes in my moods, like [insert changes].”
“I have been feeling [insert emotions] and [insert the things that trigger these feelings] seem to make it worse.”
“I want to talk to a therapist/doctor to help me through this. Will you help me find one?”
“When I’m feeling this way, I need [insert things this person can do, such as listen, help you call a crisis line, or be with you].”
Now that you have someone to support you, you can create a safety plan together. A safety plan includes a list of resources you can access when you have suicidal thoughts, but it can also include affirmations, instructions for how to reframe your thinking, and a short list of things that give you hope on good days.
A safety plan can be stored in your phone to share with someone you trust when you have suicidal feelings. It can feel overwhelming to share these feelings as they’re happening, but showing your safety plan to someone who can help is a good way to get immediate support and help.
The most important thing to know is that there is help and hope available. It may feel scary to say “suicide” out loud, but, when you do, you will discover you are no longer alone and you can find your way forward to feeling better.
For a comprehensive list of McFarlin books about suicide consult our library catalog. Some ebooks may require you sign into the library system before viewing; you will be automatically prompted if a login is necessary.
You may want to get help for any mental health issue if it lasts for a long period of time or begins to interfere with your ability to function, such as eat, study, and have fun. TU has counselors who would love to help you with your mental health.
This site provides information about and contact information for TU's Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).
If you are having a mental health crisis, the following sites provide help:
Call or text 988 - Oklahoma's statewide mental health lifeline