Frequently Asked Questions

Why do some people die by suicide?

We don’t know for sure, because when someone dies by suicide they take the answers with them. But those who attempt suicide and survive tell us they wanted to die to end the pain of living. They are often experiencing a number of stressors and feel they do not have the strength or desire to continue living. The majority of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder, such as depression, which is often undiagnosed, untreated or both.

What are the most common warning signs?

Some estimate as many as 80% of those thinking about suicide want others to be aware of their emotional pain and to stop them from dying. A warning sign does not automatically mean a person is going to attempt suicide, but it should be taken seriously.

The warning signs that we pay particular attention to are:

  • a prior suicide attempt,
  • signs of depression, hopelessness and anxiety,
  • talking about suicide and making a plan,
  • giving away prized possessions,
  • preoccupation with death,
  • signs of depression, hopelessness and anxiety,
  • increased drug and alcohol use.

Are there people who are more at-risk of suicide?

Data shows us that men in middle age represent the majority of people who die by suicide.  Alcohol and substance abuse also place a person at higher risk for suicide.  People who are exposed to trauma may also have increased risk.

Are the suicide rates different for males and females?

Males are much more likely to die by suicide, while females are more likely to make suicide attempts that result in hospitalization. 

If someone suspects that a friend or family member is considering suicide, what should they do?

Here are three very important things to do if you notice the warning signs for suicide or someone tells you directly that they are thinking about suicide.

  1. Always show the person you are concerned about them – listen without judgment, ask about their feelings and avoid trying to come up with a solution to their problem.
  2. Ask directly about suicide – be direct without being confrontational; say “are you feeling so badly you are thinking about suicide?”
  3. If the answer to your question is “yes” or you think it is yes, get help immediately – call a crisis line or 911, or go to the emergency room.  Never keep talk of suicide a secret.

What are common myths about suicide?

  • Some believe if you ask directly about suicide you “plant” the idea of suicide; this is just not true.
  • Others think those who talk about suicide are not really serious about dying – they are just seeking attention.  This is also a myth.  Talking about suicide is one way people reach out for help.

What can my department do to support this cause?

Become educated about mental health and suicide and be aware of the warning signs of suicide.  The Share the Load Support Program, sponsored by the National Volunteer Fire Council has several excellent resources on their website that are specifically directed toward emergency responders.

What is a normal reaction when someone dies by suicide?

Most feel a combination of emotions: anger, sadness, guilt, shame and fear. They wonder what they could have done and why they didn’t do more. Suicide is different from other kinds of sudden death because the reason for the death is difficult to understand. With a car accident there is an external explanation or cause – an icy road, loss of vehicle control, etc. With a homicide, the grief-stricken can point to a perpetrator. With suicide, we don’t have an external cause, and so we ask ourselves over and over: 'why?'
For resources and support for suicide loss visit