Suicide Prevention

Safety Moment

What should I do if someone is suicidal? 

An estimated one million people per year die by suicide. Social norms play a significant role in the development of suicidal behaviors, and anyone could experience these thoughts. It's important to recognize signs to help prevent harm.

What are signs of a suicidal person?

The following behaviours may be exhibited by someone at serious risk of committing suicide, especially if this behavior is new, has increased, and/or seems related to a recent painful event, such as loss or major 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

There are some behaviors that may mean a person is at immediate risk for suicide. These should prompt you to take action right away: 


  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Searching online for ways to kill oneself or obtaining a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

What should I do if someone is contemplating suicide?

It can be frightening and intimidating when someone reveals or shows signs of suicidal thoughts. However, not taking thoughts of suicide seriously can have a devastating outcome. If you think someone has the potential to hurt themselves or someone else, call 911 (emergency services) immediately. 

If someone is expressing suicidal thoughts but does not pose a threat to themselves or someone else, the best thing you can do is reach out and talk to them. Listen and understand what they are going through. Additionally, you can follow some ways to approach and/or prevent a harmful situation:

  • Contribute to a work environment that fosters communication, a sense of belonging and connectedness, and respect.
  • Ask what you can do to help. Help connect with ongoing support and stay connected. Follow up to see how they are doing. Check up on them periodically.
  • Watch for changes in employee behavior, such as avoiding co-workers, becoming abrupt with customers or colleagues, looking sad or in emotional distress all the time, or coming to work disheveled as if having been through a night of heavy drinking.
  • Be gentle and sympathetic. Reassure them that you are concerned about their well-being.


What should I do if someone is attempting suicide or self-harm?

Be prepared by knowing who to contact in your workplace if an employee or co-worker is in distress or suicidal. Take the following steps right away: 

  • If the danger for self-harm seems imminent, call 911 (emergency services). It is important to notify the operator that it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for an officer trained in crisis prevention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency
  • Stay with the person (or make sure the person is in a private, secure place with another caring person) until you can get further help.
  • Contact your company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or HR Department and they will help you. Provide any background information that may be helpful. Maintain contact with the employee and the EAP or HR Department to provide appropriate support and follow-up.


Who can I contact for help?

If you need help for yourself or someone else, contact a suicide prevention number or chat with someone online. Most cities, states, territories, and countries all have their own prevention number. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US)


Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes and should not be used in the treatment of medical conditions. It is based on skilled medical opinion as of the date of publication.

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