Mclean Hospital

Suicide Prevention

Talking about suicide is the best way to prevent it.

Although it is not possible to predict suicide with any certainty, our best tool is recognition of the signs that many people exhibit when contemplating suicide. The following three behaviors should prompt you to seek immediate help for yourself or a loved one:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

If You or Someone You Know Needs Help

If you are suicidal or are a danger to yourself to others, please call 9-1-1 or visit your nearest emergency room immediately.

Identifying Those at Risk

Suicide claims more than 38,000 American lives each year—more than the number killed by car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and the rate hasn’t budged in decades.

According to Dost Öngür, MD, PhD, chief of the Center of Excellence in Psychotic Disorders at McLean Hospital, “Suicidal thinking is common and widespread, especially among people with mental illnesses. Yet we don’t have good ways of deciding who is at genuine risk, and who is struggling but who won’t go through with hurting themselves. The reality is that there is no established way of saying this person is at higher risk than that person.”

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Talking about suicide is the best way to prevent it

“90% of people who die by suicide have an existing mental illness or substance misuse problem at the time of their death,” says Öngür. “Mental illness can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate based on gender, age, race or socioeconomic status.”

Beyond the behaviors noted above, these actions may also indicate a serious risk—especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change:

  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, it is important to note that factors identified as increasing risk are not factors that cause or predict a suicide attempt. Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. Protective factors are characteristics that make it less likely that individuals will consider, attempt, or die by suicide.

Protective factors for suicide include:

  • Receiving effective mental health care
  • Positive connections to family, peers, community, and social institutions, such as marriage and religion, that foster resilience
  • The skills and ability to solve problems

Together, we can shine a light on a topic that is often not discussed out of fear and stigma and work to help countless individuals find the help they need.


These organizations also offer suicide prevention resources:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you are suicidal, please call 800.273.TALK (8255). You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area. Counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline website also offers a number of resources for those looking for support.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide.

Samaritans: Massachusetts 24-Hour Crisis HelpLine
A non-denominational, not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide by befriending individuals in crisis and educating the community about effective prevention strategies. The Samaritans provide a free and confidential 24-hour phone befriending line. Call or text the 24/7 statewide Helpline at 877.870.4673.

Stop A Suicide Today!
Stop a Suicide Today is a nationwide campaign by Screening for Mental Health, Inc., to empower individuals to help themselves, colleagues, friends, and loved ones who are concerned about or feel suicidal.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) is the only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the implementation of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

Teen Resources

In addition to the resources above, these organizations offer support pointed specifically toward parents and teens.

Parents and teens may also find these articles helpful:

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