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Be Well, Think Well: Suicide Resources

Overview

This resource, part of the Be Well, Think Well resource collection, provides information about what are suicidal thoughts and how to manage those thoughts, the risk and protective factors for suicide, and information to help professionals know what to do if they are working with someone with ASD who has thoughts of suicide.

What Are Suicidal Thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts are when people think about suicide or wanting to end their own life. Suicidal thoughts may happen if someone is depressed.

Suicidal thoughts are thoughts such as:

  • People would be better off without me.
  • I hate school, I want to kill myself!
  • It’s not worth living anymore.
  • Nothing matters anymore. I should just die.
  • I wish I never had been born!

People will call these thoughts “suicidal ideation.” It is important to get help if you are having any thoughts about killing yourself or hurting yourself in any way.

How to Manage Suicidal Thoughts

It is important to get help if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or thoughts about death.

What can I do if I’m having suicidal thoughts?

  1. Tell someone!
    Talk to an adult you trust (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.) about the thoughts you are having. They might ask you questions about why you are feeling this way, and how much you have been thinking about these ideas. It can also be helpful to let this person keep any weapons, medicines, or harmful items until you are feeling better.
  2. Call 9-1-1 if you need immediate help
    The emergency workers will help you get to a hospital where you can get help.
  3. Call your local crisis intervention unit
    County Crisis Intervention Teams are trained professionals that can help in a mental health emergency. Check out ASERT’S County Government Office page for a list of contact numbers for each county’s crisis intervention team.
  4. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    This hotline has trained professionals to help people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Call 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or send a text message to the number 741741. They will try to understand what you’re feeling and will give suggestions for you to get additional help.
  5. Meet with a therapist or psychiatrist
    You can talk to a mental health professional to learn healthy coping strategies. Mental health professionals can help you decide if more services are needed for you.
  6. Make a safety plan
    Work with a trusted person to develop a plan of what to do if you are having suicidal thoughts. The plan should include triggers for these thoughts, healthy coping strategies, and contact information of who to go to when you need help. Check out ASERT’s resource Safety Plan for an example of a safety plan.

Risk and Protective Factors for Suicide

Suicide is among the leading causes of death in the United States.

These factors increase the risk of someone attempting suicide:

  • Attempting suicide before
  • Misuse and abuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Mental disorders, especially depression and mood disorders
  • Ability to use or find other things to harm themselves (such as guns, pills, poison, knives, etc.)
  • Knowing someone who died by suicide, like a family member
  • Being lonely or alone a lot
  • Having a life-long disease and/or disability
  • Lack of ability to receive mental health care
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Bullying

These factors reduce the chance of a person attempting suicide:

  • Receiving mental health care
  • Strong connections to family, caregivers, friends and other resources close by
  • Life skills (including problem solving skills and coping skills, ability to be flexible)
  • Feeling good about yourself
  • Beliefs that killing yourself is wrong

If you’re concerned someone may be considering suicide or is a danger to themselves you can:

  • Talk to the person about your concerns, and see if they’re willing to get help
  • Remove sharp objects, weapons, and medications from their home if possible, or lock them up
  • Develop a contract for safety with the individual, including a list of individuals they can call for help along with phone numbers for County Crisis Intervention, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and Crisis Text Line

Assessing for Suicidal Thoughts

People who are depressed or anxious have an increased risk for suicide. A person with ASD and other mental health conditions may also be at higher risk for suicide.

Passive Suicidal Ideation is thoughts of wanting to die without intent to follow through on these thoughts.

Active Suicidal Ideation is when a person has feelings that they would actually like to die.

What to do

Some people are cautious to ask about possible suicidal thoughts. Asking about suicidal thoughts will not make someone think about suicide more. Avoiding the question makes it more difficult to get people the help they need.

Ask directly if the person has thoughts about hurting or killing themselves. If they say yes, ask them how often they think about hurting or killing themselves. One of the next questions to ask is if they have a plan. Ask the person if they have thought about how they complete the act of suicide. Persons who have a plan for suicide are at a higher risk for completing suicide.

The next step is to keep the person safe if they have plans to commit suicide. If the person has a plan, try to take away their access to these means. If someone is in immediate danger, stay with the person until they are in a safe place. If you are able, secure all dangerous objects. This includes sharp objects, medications, and firearms. If firearms are present, the person may voluntarily agree to have local police secure firearms or to have the firearms secured in another location.

It is important to get additional help for the person. Tell someone right away. Call 9-1-1 if the person is in need of immediate assistance. Emergency personnel can take the person to the hospital for support. If the person is not in immediate danger, take them to a therapist, doctor, or other social supports right away.

Resources

Crisis Intervention is a resource in every county in Pennsylvania. Crisis Intervention can provide support on the telephone. Crisis workers can also go to a person who needs help with de-escalation in an emergency.

There are free, confidential hotlines that also help people who are feeling suicidal. Anyone can contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if they are feeling suicidal. Call them at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or send a text message to the number 741741. Trained professionals are available 24/7 to talk with people who feel suicidal. These professionals can help de-escalate an immediate crisis. They can also help the person to connect with more supports in their community.

Referring the person for therapy and/or psychiatry is important for the person’s wellbeing. Therapy and medications are help to reduce the symptoms of depression, including suicidal thinking. DSPs can also help by making a safety plan with the person. The safety plan will help people know their own warning signs, helpful coping skills, and resources to go to if they are feeling suicidal. Check out ASERTs Safety Plan resource for tips on how to make a safety plan.

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Other downloads

Name Description Type File
Be Well, Think Well: What Are Suicidal Thoughts? This resource provides examples of suicidal thoughts. pdf Download file: Be Well, Think Well: What Are Suicidal Thoughts?
Be Well, Think Well: How to Manage Suicidal Thoughts This resource gives some information about support and resources that are available to people who may experience suicidal thoughts. pdf Download file: Be Well, Think Well: How to Manage Suicidal Thoughts
Be Well, Think Well: Risk and Protective Factors for Suicide This resource provides information about risk and protective factors for suicide. pdf Download file: Be Well, Think Well: Risk and Protective Factors for Suicide
Be Well, Think Well: Assessing for Suicidal Thoughts This resource will help professionals know what to do if they are working with someone with ASD who has thoughts of suicide. pdf Download file: Be Well, Think Well: Assessing for Suicidal Thoughts

This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.