Frequently Asked Questions About Suicide

Suicide is not about wanting to die, but about a powerful need for pain to end. All types of people die by suicide: men and women, rich and poor, old and young, straight and gay, rural and urban. What suicidal people share are feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and isolation, a desire for a solution to their problems, and deep uncertainties about living and dying. The more you know about suicide, the better you will be able to help someone struggling with these issues.

If you know someone who might be thinking about suicide, you can help them first just by listening. Very often, people who think suicide is a choice for them feel like they have no other options, like they have no control over their lives, and that no one cares about them.

Q: Why do people choose suicide?

A: People choose suicide because they feel unable to cope with the pain in their lives. There are many types of personal losses that may contribute to this feeling, including the loss of a relationship (through a break-up or fight, death, or moving away), the loss of a job, coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, moving to an unfamilar place (including college), or developing physical, mental or emotional illness. We also know that certain groups of people, such as unemployed people, people with a mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, and people who use drugs or alcohol, are statistically more likely to die by suicide.

Q: If someone wants to die by suicide, why not let her or him?

A: Almost every person who feels suicidal is unsure about wanting to live or die. Often, with time and the concern and intervention of others, suicidal feelings pass. Suicide is a permanent “solution” to what is most likely a temporary problem.

Q: What happens to the people left behind?

A: Family and friends of people who die by suicide (called “survivors”) are usually left with conflicting emotions, such as anger, guilt, relief, shame, and grief. Most survivors also struggle to know “why” their loved one took their own life – a question that has no real answer. Often, grief counseling and support groups are available to help survivors cope with these difficult feelings and questions.

Q: Can I really help someone who has decided on suicide?

A: Because people who want to die by suicide almost always suffer from isolation and loneliness, you can help them simply by reaching out and letting them know you care. Listening to his or her troubles, asking about thoughts of suicide, and assisting her or him in getting the help that may be needed are all ways you can help someone you care about.