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Suicide Prevention

Everyone can take action to prevent suicide.

Who can I call for help right now?

If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911.

What are the risk factors for suicide?

Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They can't cause or predict a suicide attempt, but they're important to know.

  • Mental health conditions, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship(s)
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance use treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and internet)

What are the protective factors for suicide?

Protective factors make it less likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. Supporting people and promoting factors that protect them from suicidal thoughts and behaviors helps prevent suicide. Examples of protective factors include:

  • Effective coping and problem-solving skills.
  • Reasons for living such as family, friends, or pets.
  • A strong sense of cultural identity.
  • Support from a partner, family, and friends.
  • Feeling connected to others.
  • Feeling connected to school, community, or other social organizations.
  • Access to consistent and high quality physical and mental health care.
  • Safe storage for lethal means (examples: guns and medications).

What are the warning signs of suicide?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • 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 isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

What can I do right now to help someone in emotional pain?

Follow these five steps to help someone thinking about suicide.

Ask: Asking the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way.

Be there: This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone when you can, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling.

Keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.

Help them connect: Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. These supports could be a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.

Follow-up: After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing.

What can I do to help myself or a member of my community?

Select an option below for tips on how members of a specific community can take care themselves and how others can help them through challenging times.

How can I get involved in suicide prevention activities?

There are many ways for you to support suicide prevention activities in your community.

What is the state doing to prevent suicides?

Prevent Suicide Wisconsin

Prevent Suicide Wisconsin is the umbrella organization for suicide prevention efforts in Wisconsin. The Prevent Suicide Wisconsin Steering Committee includes representatives from state agencies, local suicide prevention coalition leaders, and local health departments, as well as people with lived experience of suicide attempts and losses. This group meets quarterly and provides oversight to Wisconsin's suicide prevention efforts.

Report - Suicide in Wisconsin: Impact and Response

Suicide in Wisconsin: Impact and Response is a report that seeks to mobilize and guide coordinated action to reduce suicide attempts and deaths. This report includes:

  • The most up-to-date picture of suicide and self-harm injuries in Wisconsin based on surveys, death records, and hospital data.
  • Four strategies and 50 opportunities for action that taken, as a whole, provide a path toward reducing suicidal behavior in Wisconsin.

Read the full report (PDF) | View an interactive version of the report

Wisconsin Lifeline

Wisconsin Lifeline is Wisconsin's 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline support center serving the entire state. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides care and support to people experiencing stressful situations—whether that is thoughts of suicide, a mental health concern, or a substance use issue. It is a free and confidential service that is available 24/7.

People of all ages who need help for themselves or a loved one can access the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline/Wisconsin Lifeline by:

  • Calling 988.
  • Sending a text message to 988.
  • Using the chat feature at 988lifeline.org.

Wisconsin Farm Center

The Wisconsin Farm Center offers a variety of free services and supports for farmers, including counseling provided by licensed mental health professionals through the 24/7 Farmer Wellness Hotline (888-901-2558) and counseling vouchers. For more information, visit the Wisconsin Farm Center website.

Reducing suicide deaths among rural men aged 25 and older

Our goal is to reduce suicide deaths by 10 percent by 2027 among rural men aged 25 and older. This population has the highest rate of suicide in Wisconsin.

FACTSHEET: Suicide in Wisconsin among Rural Men (25 years and older), P-03443 (PDF)

Strategies to support this goal include:

  • Promoting safe storage practices for firearms, including:
    • Storing firearms unloaded, locked up using a locking device, like a lockbox or a gun safe.
    • Keeping firearms separate from ammunition.
    • Keeping keys and combinations to firearm locking devices inaccessible to children, unauthorized users, and others at risk.
  • Supporting the Gun Shop Project, an educational campaign for firearm retailers and range owners on ways they can help prevent suicide. The project shares guidelines on how to avoid selling or renting a firearm to a suicidal customer and encourages gun stores and firing ranges to display and distribute suicide prevention materials tailored to their customers.
  • Facilitating Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) trainings for health care providers. CALM is a workshop designed to help providers implement brief counseling strategies to help clients at risk for suicide and their families reduce access to lethal means such as firearms.
  • Improving telemental health care through digital literacy programs.

This work is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This work also includes building strong partnerships across education, health care, non-profit, and community organizations; creating a list of existing suicide prevention programs in Wisconsin and identifying where programming gaps exist; and engaging with community organizations to increase and expand suicide prevention efforts.

Improvements to the system of care for mental health emergencies

Enhancements to Wisconsin's system for mental health crisis situations will make this system more like the systems for medical and public safety emergencies. The goal of this work is to develop a system of care in line with national standards that can serve everyone, everywhere, every time. Learn more about this work.

Resilient Wisconsin

Resilient Wisconsin is a statewide initiative to improve the conditions in which people work, live, and grow through trauma-informed resources, tools, and education. Learn more about Resilient Wisconsin.

Safe Person campaign

Safe Person campaign members commit to uphold seven promises. Learn the seven promises and get a decal to show your commitment to non-judgmental listening and support.

What national organizations work on suicide prevention?

Last revised February 16, 2024