Suicidal Behavior

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify suicide warning signs and resources for further information about mental health issues

Suicide causes immeasurable pain, suffering, and loss to individuals, families, and communities nationwide.

Suicide rates increased thirty-three percent between 1999 and 2019, with a small decline in 2019 and even greater decline in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Suicide was the twelfth leading cause of death in 2020 and claimed the lives of 44,834 people[1]. The preliminary data from the CDC showing the sharpest decline in suicide rates in the United States in 2020 was surprising considering the increases reported in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse during this time. While more research is forthcoming, experts believe that the decline in suicides may be due to people coming together during crises like global epidemics and war. Additionally, people felt more comfortable talking about their emotions, and seeking mental health services may have been viewed as more acceptable (and for some, more accessible via telehealth) during this crisis.[2].

Suicide can affect people of all ages. It is the second leading cause of death for people ages ten to thirty-four, the fourth leading cause among people ages thirty-four to fifty-four, and the fifth leading cause among people ages forty-five to fifty-four. Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age, and other demographic factors. The highest rates are among American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic, White populations. Other Americans with higher than average rates of suicide are veterans, people who live in rural areas, and workers in certain industries and occupations like mining and construction. Young people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual have a higher rate of suicidal ideation and behavior compared to their peers who identify as heterosexual.[3] But suicide is preventable, so it’s important to know what to do.

Watch this TEDx talk by Jack Park where he discusses his experience with mental illness and suicidality and how he got help. One of his coping strategies for dealing with college stress was changing his to-do list to a want-to-do list. He emphasizes self-care for our mental health.

Warning Signs of Suicide

If someone you know is showing one or more of the following behaviors, they may be thinking about suicide. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Get help immediately.

  • talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • looking for a way to kill oneself
  • talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • 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

Try It

Get Help

If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255) or use their lifeline chat. Trained crisis workers are available to talk twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If you think someone is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone—stay there and call 911.

Additional Resources

OK2TALK is a community for young adults struggling with mental health problems. It offers a safe place to talk. Crisis Text Line provides free, twenty-four–seven, text-based mental health support and crisis intervention.


warning signs: early indicators of a potential for self-harm, such as expressing a desire to self-harm, looking for ways to do so, or sharing feelings of being trapped or hopeless (among others); such indicators are serious and require one to seek help or to assist others in getting help


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  1. Bean, M. (2021, April 1). "Suicides Fell in 2020, Early CDC Data Shows." Becker's Hospital Review,
  2. Hicks, T. "Why Suicides Have Decreased during the COVID-19 Pandemic." Healthline, 12 Apr. 2021,
  3. "Facts about Suicide." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021,