What Leads to Suicide?

It may be impossible to imagine a situation in which the only solution in sight is the tunnel vision of ending one’s life. There is no one single factor that causes someone to consider suicide. It is the hopelessness and despair commonly associated with clinical depression. Many survivors of suicide attempts eventually come to see that suicide is not the solution. Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

Warning Signs of Suicide

Many people who are considering suicide exhibit changes in their communication, behavior, and/or mood.

Warning signs include:

  • Statements about wanting to die
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Unbearable pain

Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss, or change:

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation or shame
  • Agitation or anger
  • Relief or sudden improvement

Increased risks of suicide are associated with a history of mental health issues, environmental factors such as prolonged stress and access to lethal means of harm, and factors such as a history of suicide or trauma. If you are worried about your friend, coworker, or family member, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call PAS at 919-416-1727.


  • As the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, suicide remains a serious public health problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • 47,173 Americans died by suicide in 2017.
  • It is the second leading cause of death among children ages 10–14.
  • It is the third leading cause of death among 15–24-year-olds.
  • Mental illness, specifically clinical depression, is the most common condition associated with suicide. It is present in at least 50 percent of all cases and often goes undiagnosed and untreated.
  • Those with clinical depression are at a 25 times greater risk of dying by suicide than the rest of the population.
  • In 2017, men died by suicide 3.54 times more often than woman. The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white males.

What to Do if You Think You or Someone Else is Suicidal

  • Express your concern.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask whether the person is considering suicide and whether they have a particular plan in mind. These questions will not push the person towards suicide if they weren’t considering it.
  • Ask if the person is seeing a doctor or taking medication. If so, encourage them to contact the treating physician immediately. Offer to go to the appointment with the person. If not, help them find a mental health professional and make an appointment. You can also take them to a walk-in clinic or hospital emergency room.
  • Do not argue someone out of suicide. Let the person know that you care, that they are not alone, and that they can get help. Don’t say things like "You have so much to live for" or "If you kill yourself, it will hurt your family."
  • Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • Do not leave the person alone.


Support Groups for Survivors of Suicide

Many people find that support groups for survivors of suicide can help them cope better with the normal emotions following such a loss. It can be helpful to meet with people who really get what you are feeling because they have experienced a similar loss. It can help you feel less judgmental of yourself when you realize other people have had similar reactions. Finally, a support group can help with your own healing when you realize that sharing your experience helps someone else.

For online support groups, see:

For local support groups, see: