Every suicide is a tragedy, and to some degree a mystery.


a person drowns underwater


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Understanding Suicide

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff


Every suicide is a tragedy and to some degree, a mystery.


Suicide often stems from a deep feeling of hopelessness.

The inability to see solutions to problems or to cope with challenging life circumstances may lead people to see taking their own lives as the only solution to what is really a temporary situation, and most survivors of suicide attempts go on to live full, rewarding lives.


Depression is a key risk factor for suicide; others include psychiatric disorders, substance use, chronic pain, a family history of suicide, and a prior suicide attempt.

Impulsiveness often plays a role among adolescents who take their life.

(To learn more about risk factors, see Mental Health or Social, Economic, and Genetic Influences.)


If a person deemed at risk due to any of the above exhibits sudden mood changes—even a suddenly upbeat mood—or completely new behaviors, they may be actively suicidal.

Those who speak about being a burden to others, having no reason to live, feeling trapped, or in unbearable pain may also be contemplating suicide.

(To learn more about warning signs of suicide, see Signs That Someone Is Contemplating Suicide.)


Statistically, suicide occurs most frequently among people ages 45 to 54.

Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide; men are more likely than women to complete the act.


For immediate help in the U.S., 24/7: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK. Outside of the U.S., visit the International Resources page for suicide hotlines in your country. To find a therapist near you, see the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


How can I talk to someone who is suicidal?


There are many myths about suicide.

One is the mistaken belief that talking about it to a person in danger encourages the act.

If a loved one expresses thoughts or plans of suicide, it’s essential to initiate a conversation.

It is wise to approach the discussion by identifying concrete resources, such as a therapist or suicide prevention hotline, and to conclude the conversation with a stated commitment to follow up with the person over time.


Be direct with the person by asking the following questions:

  • How are you coping with your challenges?
  • Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
  • Are you thinking about dying?
  • Are you thinking about suicide?
  • Have you come up with a plan for taking your own life?

To learn more, see How to Talk About Suicidal Thoughts.


Where can someone who is thinking about suicide get help?

Blond woman sitting on floor in front of gray wall, sadly looking at phone

Anyone experiencing persistent suicidal thoughts or behaviors should seek help as soon as possible.

In the midst of a crisis, the best resources are usually suicide hotlines—staffed by people who are trained to both talk someone through an immediate crisis and to connect them with additional help in their area—crisis centers or local authorities.

Beyond that, seeking the help of a trained mental health professional is the best way to ward off future crises and sustain well-being over time.


For more, see Seeking Help for Suicidal Thoughts. To find resources in your area, see Suicide Hotlines and Prevention Resources.


Are children at risk of suicide?

Sad teen girl with curly black hair looking out window

The overall risk of a child hurting him- or herself is small.

But it is certainly possible for a child or teen to experience suicidal thoughts or, sadly, to die by suicide.

While the risk tends to be highest during the teen years, children as young as five have been known to think about or die by suicide.


Parents can help by learning to recognize common warning signs of suicidality (like sudden mood changes, frequent talk about "going away" or dying, or risky, impulsive behavior), seeking mental healthcare for children who may be at risk, and fostering an environment where children feel safe talking about their emotions and their challenges.

For more, see Children, Teens, and Suicide Risk.


How can I cope after losing someone to suicide?

Woman in black dress, crying in church pew with rose; she is grieving a death

Losing a loved one to suicide triggers deep, complicated grief.


In addition to the pain of the loss itself, individuals who survive a loved one's suicide often grapple with confusing feelings of shame, anger, guilt, despair, or relief; in some cases, learning about or discovering the death may be traumatizing.


While it's tempting to isolate yourself and shoulder your grief alone, seeking help from others—whether your own family and friends, a trained mental health professional, and/or a support group—is often the surest path toward healing.

Though the pain of the loss will likely never go away, many suicide survivors find that, with time, they come to recognize that their loved one's death was not their fault and are able to find meaning and purpose in life again.

For more, see Coping After Suicide Loss or Losing a Spouse, Parent, Child, or Sibling to Suicide.


How common is it to survive a suicide attempt?

Pensive older man sitting on park bench looking away

The vast majority of attempted suicides are non-fatal.


Many who survive a suicide attempt feel great relief and may even come to approach their life with a newfound hopefulness afterward; however, many survivors continue to struggle afterward with mental health challenges and may continue to be at risk of future attempts on their own life.


Therefore, anyone who has attempted suicide must seek mental healthcare and turn to their loved ones for support. With support, in most cases, he or she will go on to live a happy, fulfilling life.

For more, see Surviving a Suicide Attempt.


What is suicide contagion?


Suicide contagion is an increase in suicide attempts and completed suicides following exposure to suicide in the media or one’s personal circle.

The suicide of a prominent celebrity or a member of a specific community, such as the military or an elementary school, has been shown to correlate with a rise in suicides.

Although many studies have reported this correlation, they cannot conclude that exposure caused the elevated rates.


Those who are especially susceptible to suicide contagion, also called copycat suicide, include adolescents, people who already struggle with suicidal thoughts, and people with mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.


The phenomenon may occur partly due to the tendency to learn from important or relevant figures and because the idea may become more prominent in one’s mind.


Suicide contagion can be curbed.


The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention issued media guidelines that many publications have adopted, such as not detailing the method used in suicides, not suggesting that a death was due to a simple reason or an achieved a goal such as fame or revenge, and perhaps most important, listing resources to help those who may be struggling.

For more, see Media Coverage and Suicide Contagion.


What is assisted suicide?

Sick patient lying in hospital bed, with a heart rate monitor on his finger

In some countries and U.S. states, individuals with a terminal illness are legally allowed to request physician-assisted suicide, in which a medical professional helps them procure the means to end their life if they so choose deliberately.


Assisted suicide is the subject of great debate—with those in favor argue that it allows people to "die with dignity" and spare themselves and their loved ones great pain, and those opposed arguing that it devalues human life or may be applied by someone who has other, yet-unexplored options.


15 Important Reminders for Your Darkest Moments of Self-Doubt

Written by

15 Little Reminders for Your Darkest Moments of Self-Doubt

Our character is often most evident at our highs and lows. Be humble at the mountaintops, be strong in the valleys, and be faithful in between.


Why are we feeling this way—so beaten up and worn down?

Why do we, who start out so passionate, courageous, worthy, and believing, become utterly bankrupt by the youthful age of 30, 40, or 50?


Why is it that one of us drowns in material consumption and debt, another self-mutilates, a third seeks oblivion in hard liquor and gambling, and a fourth, to stifle fear and judgment, cynically tramples and berates her own individuality, intelligence, and priceless youth?


Why is it that, once fallen, we don’t attempt to rise back up?

Or, having lost one thing, why don’t we attempt to seek another?


Why? Why? Why!!!


Because we give up on ourselves too soon.

We let that negativity monster chew us up and spit us out into a murky puddle of self-doubt.

And we’ve all been there at some point too. So, if you can relate right now, here are some important reminders to keep handy…


  1. When your marriage, parenting, faith, etc., gets tough, it’s not a sign that you’re doing it wrong. These intimate, intricate aspects of life are toughest when you’re doing them right – when you’re dedicating time, having tough conversations, and making daily sacrifices.
  2. On particularly hard days when you feel you can’t endure, remind yourself that your track record for getting through hard days is 100% so far.
  3. Please have a little faith that the universe has a plan for you, and it’s all being revealed in the right time frame. Something you will eventually learn through all your ups and downs is that there are really no wrong decisions in life, just choices that will take your life down different paths. Sometimes you must get hurt in order to grow or lose in order to gain. Sometimes the lesson you need most can only be learned through a little pain.
  4. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
  5. Life is not about maintaining the status quo. Life is not about playing it safe every second. Life is not about standing still and wallowing in self-doubt. It’s about connecting with your soul, respecting your integrity, and telling yourself you can. It’s about taking a few steps, regardless of how hard and small they may be, so you can move forward and evolve. (Read Daring Greatly.)
  6. It would be best if you made a firm decision that you will move forward. It won’t always happen naturally or automatically. Sometimes you will have to rise up and say, “I don’t care how hard this is. I don’t care how disappointed I am. I’m not going to let this get the best of me. I’m moving on with my life.”
  7. No matter what’s happening, you CAN efficiently fight today's battles. It’s only when you add the battles of those two relentless eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that life gets overwhelmingly complicated. Realize that it’s not the experience of today by itself that devastates you, but the regret and resentment about something that happened yesterday or the fear and dread of what tomorrow might bring. It’s necessary, therefore, to let yourself live just one day at a time – just today – just right here, right now.
  8. When you stop worrying about what you can’t control, you have time to change what you can control. And that changes everything.
  9. Don’t worry about mistakes and failures; worry about what you give up when you don’t even try.
  10. Making mistakes means you’re DOING something in the real world and learning from it. Listening or reading is often just listening or reading. It’s not real learning. Real learning comes from making mistakes. And mistakes come from gradual implementation.
  11. If you never go after it again, you’ll never have it. If you never ask again, the answer will always be no. If you never step forward again, you’re stuck right where you are.
  12. In the space between “I’ll try again” and “I give up,” there’s a lifetime. It’s the difference between the path you walk and the one you leave behind; it’s the gap between who you are capable of being and who you have become; it's the legroom for the fairy tales you’ll tell yourself about what could have been.
  13. Everyone has a little talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it into the dark places where it leads, and beyond. (Marc and I discuss this in detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  14. Courage doesn’t always roar; sometimes it’s simply a whisper at the end of the day that says, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
  15. If you’re still sitting there thinking, “Things should be different right now,” take a deep breath. That’s not true, and you know it. Because if it were true, things would be different right now. Stay present and focus on what you can create today. And tomorrow will reveal itself exactly as it should, just as yesterday has.

Now, it’s your turn…

It’s your turn to reinforce your better judgment.

All the love and validation you need is yours to give yourself.

Let that sink in.

Then leverage the reminders above to let it sink in even deeper.

Someday everything will make better sense.

Unimaginably good things will transpire in your life, even if things don’t turn out exactly how you anticipated.

And you’ll look back at these past times, smile, and ask yourself, “How did I get through all of that?”

So take a deep breath right now.

And another…



Suicide Risk Factors: Social, Economic, and Genetic Influences

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Most people conceive of suicide as being caused solely by severe mental illness, and in many cases, a mood disorder or other diagnosable psychological condition did play a significant role.


But many people who display no signs of depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness die by suicide, too.

While these deaths are often shocking and confusing to their loved ones, the individual's decision to take their own life may be attributable to one or several of a wide range of physical or sociocultural factors, such as chronic pain or illness, unemployment or job loss, or serious legal troubles.


Demographic factors such as age, race, or gender, as well as genetics, also appear to play a role in suicidal ideation and completion, though in some cases the root cause of their influence is multifaceted or not yet fully understood.


What we do know, however, is that suicide is complicated and that one need not be severely depressed to contemplate taking one's own life.

Anyone who is speaking of death, suicide, or being a burden—especially if one or more additional mitigating factors are present—should be taken seriously and connected to mental health services as soon as possible.

(To learn more about how depression and other mental health challenges influence the risk of suicide, see Mental Health Conditions and Suicide.)

For immediate help in the U.S., 24/7: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK. Outside of the U.S., visit the International Resources page for suicide hotlines in your country. To find a therapist near you, see the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.