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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Shepard, MD

Time to Talk

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 1.3 million adults attempt suicide each year in the United States. For a tragedy of this magnitude, it is incredible that simply talking about it can make a big difference. There are so many reasons that people don't want to talk about suicide. It can be a taboo subject, full of stigma, fear, and guilt. But avoiding the subject makes it seem even scarier and more isolating.

Some people worry that bringing up the topic of suicide to someone who is struggling might cause them to try and hurt themselves. But there is no evidence that talking about suicide makes people more likely to die by suicide. Instead, most are relieved to be asked directly and given the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling (Dazzi, et al., 2014).

Others think that is pointless to talk about suicide. They may believe that if someone is truly going to harm themselves, they won't tell anyone. But research from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has shown that most people who take their own lives tell someone else about their suicidal thoughts before acting on them. 

I've heard people say that if someone really wants to kill themselves, there is nothing you can do to stop them so why bother talking about it. However, we know that suicide usually stems from an underlying mental illness like depression, bipolar disorder, or a substance use disorder. These are treatable medical conditions and talking about suicide can help us identify those at risk so we can properly treat them. Even if someone does not have an underlying mental health condition, just providing support and being willing to listen can prevent suicide (Parekh, 2018)

Just by talking about suicide, you could be the one to save a life. Visit for more info on how to talk about suicide. 

References and Further Reading

Parekh R. Suicide Prevention. Information for Patients and Families. Accessed September 3, 2020.

Dazzi T, Gribble R, Wessely S, Fear NT. Does asking about suicide and related behaviours induce suicidal ideation? What is the evidence? Psychol Med. 2014;44(16):3361.

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