• Consumer Health: What you can do to help prevent suicide

a white man with his hands clasped as if praying, sitting at table sad, thoughtful, depressed

World Suicide Prevention Day will be observed on Friday, Sept. 10, which makes this a good time to learn more about suicide and how you can help someone in danger of suicide.

Suicide is a tragic reaction to stressful life situations. Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling helpless or unable to cope with what seems like an overwhelming life situation. Without hope for the future, suicide may seem like the only solution. There also may be a genetic link to suicide, as people who complete suicide or have suicidal thoughts or behavior are more likely to have a family history of suicide.

Warning signs aren't always obvious, and they can vary from person to person. Some people make their intentions clear, while others keep suicidal thoughts and feelings secret.

When people say they are thinking about suicide or act as though they may be considering harming themselves, it can be upsetting. You may not be sure what to do to help. You may wonder whether you should take them seriously or if you might make the situation worse.

Taking action is always the best choice. While you're not responsible for preventing someone from taking his or her own life, your intervention may help the person see that other options are available to stay safe and get treatment.

Connect with others talking about coping with the loss of a loved one to suicide in the Loss & Grief support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.

Related articles