Suicide Prevention Guide

Everything you need to know to help prevent suicide.


Warning Signs to Look Out For:

1. Extreme shifts in mood, energy, or behavior are a warning sign.

For example, if someone is experiencing depression, and suddenly has an extreme shift for the “better” (i.e. seeming much happier very suddenly), that can be a sign that they’re NOT on the up-and-up in terms of recovery but have actually found a sense of happiness from finding a “solution” to end their pain. That solution could be suicide. I’ve watched friends become devastated over the idea that their loved one seemed so happy the night, day, or week beforehand which can leave them feeling totally confused.

2. Another warning sign is tying up loose ends.

For example, someone might begin to give away their possessions, like gifting their favorite watch to a family member, giving a friend a memento of their friendship, or even giving out money. Another example of this could be spending more time with loved ones in an attempt to “say goodbye” to everyone they care about.

3. People can drop hints, thoughts, or even threats about death or suicide as a warning sign.

Look out for phrases like “I wish I wasn’t here” or “I wish I could just end it.” If you hear either of these from a friend or loved one, immediately ask if they mean suicide. If the answer is yes and they have a plan, call 911 or The Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

4. Any extreme shift in behavior for the person can be a warning sign.

Examples include:

  • Aggressive behavior that’s outside their norm
  • Impulsive or even reckless behavior
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Increased alcohol/drug use
  • Extreme increase or deviation from the person’s usual habits


QPR is the CPR for our mind. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer. 

  • Q = Question = Ask the question. “Are you thinking about suicide?”
    There’s a fear that by bringing up the topic of suicide to someone, you could inspire them to try it. This is a devastating myth. Always ask someone if they are considering suicide if you are unsure –  it’s the first step to prevention. If they say no, then that’s relieving but find ways to support them for whatever they are going through. If they say yes, move to P.

  • P = Persuade = Persuade them to get help.
    If someone has a plan and is ready to see that plan out, persuade that person to get help one more time, and have them promise to stay with you until you find some. Stay with the person while either: calling 911, calling the suicide lifeline, or making a plan with an online/over the phone therapist for getting long-term help.
    Persuade the person to stay with you while getting them help. Tell them that their life is worth living and they have other options. There are ways to feel better that they may have not thought of yet and folks that are here to help them find those ways.

  • R = Refer = Refer them to Resources.
    If they have a plan set in place, stay with them while you call 911 or The Suicide Prevention Lifeline (listed below). If they do not have a plan in place, you can call other resources listed below. Stay with them while you find a family member or guardian that can be there with them until they receive professional support.

Please keep in mind that this is an abridged version of an evidence-based training. Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, not just mental health professionals. QPR is a training that is usually offered free to local communities. To learn more about it or find a local branch near you, visit their website


A safety plan, or crisis plan, is a document that contains important information and outlines how to respond to a crisis situation. 

Many healthcare providers require patients to create a crisis plan that include:

  • phone numbers of mental health professions, family members and friends
  • a list of current prescription medications, doses and diagnosis
  • any history of suicide attempts, psychosis or drug use history
  • a list of triggers 
  • a list of coping mechanisms and self-soothing activities
  • a list of reasons to live and people you love (your support system)



Call 911

  • If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, calling 911 and talking with the police may be necessary. It is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for an officer trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

National Suicide Prevention Lifelife - Call 800-273-TALK (8255)

  • If you or someone you know is in crisis—whether they are considering suicide or not—please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.

Crisis Text Support - Text HELLO to 741-741

  • Connect with a trained crisis counselor to receive free, 24/7 crisis support via text message. This can be done on a phone or computer: text "HELLO" or "START" to begin. The first two messages are automated before you're connected to a counselor. This usually takes less than 5 minutes.


NAMI HELPLINE - 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or

  • The NAMI Helpline can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm ET. Helpline staff and volunteers are prepared to answer your questions about mental health issues including: symptoms of mental health conditions, treatment options, local support groups and services, education programs, helping family members get treatment, programs to help find jobs, and legal issues.


Support Groups

  • Look up your local NAMI chapter
  • Connect to The Trevor Project (specifically for suicide prevention in LGBTQIAA+ youth)

Find Therapy

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