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NSPL_LogoFor many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to feelings of uncertainty, fear, stress, and anxiety which can take a toll on mental health. It is important, particularly in uncertain times, to prioritize conversations around mental health, including suicide. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a good time to be mindful of the signs that could point to someone being at risk of suicidal ideation/planning, and of prevention strategies in order to help.

Risk factors include:

  • Loss of a loved one, a relationship or job
  • Traumatic experiences, such as witnessing or experiencing violence
  • A sense of isolation
  • Lack of social support
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Access to lethal means like guns and pills
  • Family history of suicide or previous suicide attempt
  • A history of mental health problems
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Stigma associated with seeking help

Warning signs that someone may be considering suicide:

  • You may notice that a person will talk about suicide or say things like they feel hopeless, they are a burden to others, feel trapped or talk about having so much pain that it isn’t worth living any longer.
  • They may exhibit certain behaviors such as increased use of drugs and alcohol (or they may even start using when they have been sober for a while); they may start mentioning how people die by suicide; withdraw from activities they typically love to do; isolate themselves further; sleep too much or too little; you may even notice they start calling people to say goodbye or to give away a prized possession.

What can you do to help?

Protective factors make it less likely that someone will consider or attempt suicide, and include:

  • Family and community support
  • Skills in problem solving and conflict resolution
  • Effective care and support for mental, physical and substance abuse issues
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation

3 things you can do that can make a world of difference:

  • Ask! Do not be afraid to ask the person if they are feeling so hopeless that they are thinking of suicide. Please do not be judgmental when you ask or you will more than likely receive a negative response rather than the truth.
  • Listen! This is not the time to say “you will be fine” – they are not looking for you to fix everything but to listen and validate the feelings they are experiencing now. Try saying: “It really does sound like you have a lot going on. Is there anything I can do to support you?” or “Thanks for sharing that with me.”
  • Get help! Never leave a person who is suicidal alone. We recommend you call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help, 1-800-273-8255, or their doctor or therapist. In an extreme emergency, call 911.

Suicide does not have to be something we should be afraid to talk about. Talking and asking the important questions can save a life. Now more than ever it is important for us to all keep vigilant, watch out for those we care about most, and ask for help.

For more information on suicide prevention, visit the Massachusetts Department of Health Suicide Prevention Program page at




Written By:

Director, DPH Suicide Prevention Program

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