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Suicide, intentionally taking one's own life, is arguably the most tragic and preventable cause of death.  People may consider suicide when they feel hopeless and can’t see any other solution to their problems. Often it is related to serious depression, alcohol or substance abuse, recent loss, or a stressful life situation.

An important thing to remember about suicide is that it is an undoable action to a temporary problem. Issues underlying suicidal thoughts, such as depression or substance abuse, can be treated successfully. And, stressful life events can be helped through a supportive network of family and friends or counseling.

If you or someone you care about is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Warning Signs

A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. Most people who commit suicide don’t want to die; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems. Definite warning signals of suicidal intentions are often present but family, friends, and coworkers may be unaware of the significance of these warnings or unsure what to do about them.

Warning signs may include:

  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • History of past suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide or violence
  • Isolation or lack of support
  • Financial or social loss
  • Access to lethal means
  • Rage, uncontrollable anger, and seeking revenge
  • Feeling trapped—like there is no way out
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Chronic physical illness
  • Preoccupation with death and dying

Note: having one or more of the above risk factors does not mean that a suicide will occur.

Depression is the greatest risk factor for suicide, with suicidal thoughts, a symptom of depression, preceding most attempts. While self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting or burning, are sometimes precursors to suicide, they are qualitatively different from suicide attempts. Self-inflicted violence is actually a maladaptive attempt at coping, meant to soothe, alleviate anxiety, and increase a sense of power and control.

How does it impact the workplace?

Work can serve as a protective factor against suicide and depression in that employment can provide a sense of self-efficacy, achievement, daily social interactions, and structured time. However, it can also be a profound source of stress. Suicidal thoughts can impede work performance, thus reinforcing depressive symptoms and thoughts of self-harm. An attempt or completed suicide in the workplace can lead to devastating and conflicted emotions for co-workers, ranging from anger to guilt to sadness.


How does it impact relationships?

Deeper social relationships can serve as a major protective factor against suicide. However, since depressed individuals have a tendency to withdraw socially, it can be difficult to pick up on signs of suicide ideation. High risk indicators include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and futility
  • A severe loss or threat of loss
  • A history of a previous attempt
  • A history of alcohol or drug abuse


What should I do if I suspect someone is contemplating suicide?

Being aware of the warning signs of suicidal thoughts is the first step to prevention. It is also important to recognize that raising the issue and talking about suicide will not cause someone to become suicidal. If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, you should:

  • Listen and allow the expression of feelings
  • Offer empathy
  • Be non-judgmental
  • Discuss your concerns for the person directly and honestly
  • Express that you genuinely care about what happens to the person
  • Show calm confidence
  • Provide crisis intervention contact information

Suicidal thoughts or statements by others should always be taken seriously and addressed as quickly as possible.  You can call FASAP at any time and talk with an on-call clinician.  If you are concerned about someone’s immediate safety, call Campus Security:

Baltimore Harbor East


Bayview Medical Center


Columbia Center


Dorsey Center 410-516-2277

East Baltimore


East Baltimore Medical Center
(Johns Hopkins Community Physicians)


Eastern High School Campus


Glen Burnie
(Johns Hopkins HealthCare, LLC)



Howard County General Hospital


Montgomery County Campus




Sibley Memorial Hospital 202-537-4674
Suburban Hospital 301-896-2500

Washington Center

  • Carey Business School
  • Krieger School of Arts & Sciences
  • SAIS


Updated 05/02/2014

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