Managing Suicide Risk

With the right knowledge and resources, we can intervene to manage suicide risk

When a man is struggling with thoughts of suicide, it’s a sign that he’s in a very dark place, and he needs help and support to get through it.

Struggling with thoughts of suicide, and impulses to act on them, has nothing to do with the strength of a man’s character or him being selfish, and much more to do with how severe his depression has become.

Fortunately, with the proper supports, we know suicide is preventable. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize and address signs that someone may be considering suicide, regardless of whether he has asked for help.

If you believe that someone is at immediate risk of suicide, call 911 – when someone’s life is at stake, we can’t afford to take a chance.

Below are tips to help mitigate the risk of suicide.

Assessing Risk

When supporting a guy who is experiencing mental health difficulties, understanding the basics of assessing suicide risk could save his life. Here are some key warning signs to look out for:

Talking About Suicide or Death

  • Any reference to suicide or death should be taken very seriously. He might say things like “I wish I was dead” or “sometimes I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up”. Such statements are cause for concern.

Feelings Of Hopelessness or Worthlessness

  • Expressions of having no hope for the future, feeling trapped, or self-loathing may be indicators of suicidal thinking. A guy might say something like “there’s nothing left for me”, “what’s the point?”, or “I fail at everything I do…”

Putting Affairs in Order

  • This could manifest as giving away possessions or saying uncharacteristic goodbyes to friends and family. It can also look like suddenly putting personal and business affairs in order – this can be formally, through a will, insurance, etc., or informally in conversation e.g., “if something happens to me, please make sure that my dog is taken care of.”

Isolation From Others

  • If a guy his isolating himself from others (and this is unusual for him), he may be at risk of thinking about suicide.

Seeking Out Lethal Means

  • If you notice a man that you’re concerned about seeking access to guns, pills, knives, ropes, or other things that could potentially be used in a suicide attempt, you need to voice your concerns. If a man already has these objects around him, ask him if you can temporarily move them elsewhere while he’s fighting depression.

Our page on Assessing Suicide Risk provides more in-depth detail and examples to help you become better prepared to safeguard the man you care about.

Gauging and Responding to Risk

Once primed to recognize warning signs, we can try to gauge the risk level for the man we are trying to support.

Generally, there are four levels of risk:

Low Risk

  • No warning signs present

Moderate Risk

  • May have expressed suicidal thoughts, or thoughts about hopelessness/worthlessness, but not regularly
  • No other warning signs present

High Risk

  • Clear and/or repetitive suicidal desire
  • Several warning signs present
  • May have a general suicide plan

Imminent Risk

  • Has a specific plan to end his life
  • Has stated intent to act on his plan either right now or very shortly

Be aware that the risk of suicide can vary over time, so it is essential to stay in touch with the man you are worried about to observe any changes. Recognizing his level of risk is a crucial component of both short-term and long-term prevention efforts.

Starting A Conversation

If you suspect that a man in your life may be considering suicide, it is crucial to voice your concerns. This conversation is not easy and requires courage, but it is a necessary step.

It is a common misconception that discussing suicide will worsen the situation, but this is not true. Speaking up if you are worried may save someone’s life.

Key Points

  • Talking to a guy about his darkest thoughts requires privacy and patience
  • Be as calm and relaxed as possible
  • Be empathetic and receptive to what he has to say. Sometimes a guy just needs to know that it’s OK to talk about things he is struggling with
  • Avoid being judgmental

Our Gauge and Respond to Suicide Risk page expands on each risk level above, while walking you through examples of what you can say in a conversation with a man about suicide.

Provide Ongoing Support

After starting a conversation around suicide, it’s important to monitor the situation and take further steps, if necessary. Remember to be proactive – don’t wait until there is a crisis to reach out.

Below, we offer some tips to help provide ongoing support to a man who might be struggling with thoughts of suicide.

Let Him Know He Can Count on You

  • Regularly check in and invite him to contact you anytime to voice how he is feeling. You can even suggest a plan for him to check in with you weekly to update you on where his head’s at; this is a way of offering your support while also urging that he takes proactive steps. His recovery is likely to be a long process and we want him to remember we’re there if he ever needs us.

Encourage Professional Consultation

  • Encourage him to consult a mental health professional or family doctor, if he hasn’t done so already. You may want to offer helping him make appointments or providing transportation to appointments. If you don’t know which services to suggest, call a health line to learn about options and services in your area. See our In a Crisis page for local phone numbers to call in emergency situations.

Create a Safe Environment

  • With his permission, remove potentially dangerous objects (e.g., weapons) from his living area. This may include medications – talk to him about holding onto them or keeping them someplace out of the way where it’s more difficult for him to access them e.g., a safe, lockbox, a roommate’s room, etc.

Set Up a Game Plan

  • In case of a crisis, come up with a plan for what he will do – who he can call, which crisis-line can be contacted, and where the nearest hospital is. Create a list of contacts that includes friends, family, and professionals for him to contact if he ever needs to. Make sure he is on board with the plan and understands it.

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