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Changing The Conversation Around Suicide

Usually when an issue becomes large enough to classify as an epidemic it becomes a central topic of discussion. Unfortunately, many of us don’t quite know how to handle ourselves when it comes to conversations around suicide. 

Suicide as a topic of discussion is somewhat of a taboo in our society for a number of reasons.

Many people are uncomfortable talking about death in any regard. The same can be said for the topic of mental illness. Because discussions about suicide usually require talking about both, the subject is often avoided outright. 

This stigma can be incredibly isolating. 

For someone struggling with thoughts of suicide, it may prevent them from reaching out for help or talking about how they are feeling. For those who have recently lost a loved one to suicide, they may likewise feel unable to reach out for support. 

One of the best means of prevention and support for both victims and survivors is open conversation. We owe it to our communities to get better at talking about suicide. Here are some steps we can all make in the right direction in order to end the stigma. 

Step 1: Stop

Destigmatizing the conversation around suicide requires, first, confronting some of the unhelpful ways we speak and act about it. Before we can change the conversation, here are some of the things we need to stop doing: 


When speaking about suicide, it’s important to recognize that it’s impossible to know who might be struggling. 

There is no singular type of person who struggles with mental illness or suicidal ideation. Implying that suicidality should look or present a certain way may increase the feelings of failure and isolation in those who don’t fit the mold. 


Often the language around suicide frames it in a way that paints it as criminal or selfish. 

This kind of thinking can make people struggling with suicidal thoughts feel ashamed and hesitant to tell anyone they are suffering. It can also make surviving friends and family hesitant to talk about what they’re going through out of fear that their loved one will be judged for taking their own life.  


Many people report that after they reach out about struggling with suicidal thoughts people around them start treating them differently. It’s common for members of a family or community to tread extra carefully around a suicidal person as if saying the wrong thing might set them off. 

This does not go unnoticed and makes it harder for sufferers to be willing to reach out the next time. Similarly, it can make survivors of suicide feel like their grief is inconvenient or that they are being overemotional. 

Reject the idea that depression or grief makes people too fragile to treat normally. 


It is never helpful to tell anyone who is struggling for any reason that their pain is insignificant compared to others in the world. 

Mental illness affects people regardless of their life situation. 

Their pain is real whether or not you think they should be feeling it. 

Minimizing will add guilt and only make a person feel worse.  


Avoiding discussion of suicide when someone is struggling or has suffered a loss is never helpful. Dodging the topic and pretending everything is fine won’t make the problem go away. 

If we stop treating suicide like a dirty word, it will be easier for people to talk about it when they need help. 

Step 2: Learn

Knowledge can go a long way toward improving the way we talk about suicide. If you are interested in becoming more comfortable with the topic, a good place to start is learning more about it. 

There are many incredible resources that speak in plain language about suicide in a way that is helpful in knowing how to approach the topic. Here are some helpful links to get you started: 

Step 3: Normalize

As you become more informed, normalize speaking about mental health and suicide in your social circles. 

If you have struggled with your own mental health, be willing to speak openly about it. It’s more than likely that others have had similar struggles but have felt alone because of stigma. 

Even the way we speak about victims of suicide can be improved by normalizing discussion. 

We should be willing to talk about those we have lost to suicide in a way that acknowledges their experience without judgment. 

Some people worry this sort of discussion may encourage others to act on their own suicidal thoughts. In fact, the opposite is true. 

Open and empathetic acknowledgment of the pain of the victim and the pain of their loss can embolden others to reach out for help without fear of judgment. 

Step 4: Ask & Listen

One of the best things you can do to destigmatize the discussion of suicide is to become comfortable with asking and listening. 

If you suspect somebody is having a difficult time, make it a normal practice to ask them sincerely about how they’re feeling. If they feel you are a safe person to be vulnerable with they are more likely to open up. 

Listen to them without judgment and with the intent to understand. 

Treat anybody who opens up to you about mental illness or grief as if it is perfectly normal for them to do so. The more calm empathy people receive, the easier it will be for them to talk. The more people someone is able to talk to, the bigger their support system and the better their chances of recovery. 

Another important resource built around listening is the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. This free resource is for anyone experiencing a crisis and it connects people with skilled crisis counselors who listen and provide immediate support. For more information, visit or read our dedicated article.

Step 5: Advocate

As you become more comfortable speaking about suicide in your own social circles, you can use your voice to help others. 

Speak up to advocate for better support and resources in your community. 

The more community members and leaders are made aware of the prevalence of suicide, the greater the call will be for improved conversation and support for those who are struggling. 

— Whether it’s yourself or a loved one, a suicidal crisis can be a scary thing to navigate. That’s why we at Bio-One hope this guide will help you know how to intervene to keep yourself or the people you love safe. We want to create a future where we never have to answer another suicide call again.

One of the most difficult parts about realizing you may be suicidal is feeling like you can’t talk to anyone about it. 

Whether out of shame, or fear of how a loved one will react to finding out, reaching out to someone you know for help can be incredibly paralyzing. This sense of isolation can be dangerous, especially in moments of crisis. 

In these discouraging and frightening moments, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is there. 

What is the 988 Lifeline? 

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a free resource anyone experiencing a crisis can contact for help. 

988 Lifeline

The Lifeline connects people with skilled crisis counselors who listen and provide immediate support to guide you through the worst of your distress. They can also refer you to resources to help you keep yourself safe in the long term. 

The Lifeline is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as part of its ongoing mission to reduce suicide rates nationwide. 

They work with many local and government suicide prevention organizations to extend their reach everywhere in the United States.

Contacting the Lifeline is as simple as calling or texting 988. 

When Should I Reach Out?

The 988 Lifeline is for anyone who is thinking about suicide, concerned for a friend or loved one, or just in need of emotional support. This means you can call, text, or chat even if you are struggling but not yet in crisis. 

Reaching out

People call the Lifeline for any number of reasons:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Struggling with substance abuse
  • Gender or sexual identity issues
  • Recovering from abuse
  • Loneliness

These are just a few concerns that may prompt someone to call, but they should illustrate that you don’t need to wait until you’re in severe distress to call. 

988 is a crisis service, but not an emergency service. This means if you are in emotional distress but aren’t yet in danger, it is the right time to call. 988 counselors are well-trained in methods to help you steer out of an emotional spiral and ground yourself. 

If you or the person you are helping is in immediate danger of harming themselves, call 911 right away. 

What Should I Expect When I Contact 988?

There are a few different ways you can contact the 988 Lifeline depending on your needs. You can call or send a text to 988, or you can chat with a counselor online at Help is available in English or Spanish, and there are additional options for ASL speakers. 

Talk to a crisis counselor

Depending on how you choose to contact the Lifeline, here is what you can expect from the process: 

If you call… 

You will be greeted by an automated message and a phone tree. If you are a veteran, you can press 1 to be directed to the Veteran Crisis Line. For help in Spanish, you can press 2. Otherwise, you can remain on the line and you will be placed on a brief hold while you are connected to a counselor. 

If you text… 

After you send a text to 988 requesting help, you will receive a short survey to let the counselor know a little about your situation. After you respond, the text line will connect you to your counselor who will instruct you further. 

If you chat… 

Similar to the text line, you will receive a short survey asking about your situation so your counselor knows how to help. There will be a short wait time while you are connected, and then your counselor will instruct you further. 

They Will Listen and Help

Regardless of how you reach out, once you are connected to a counselor, they will listen to your problems and ask you questions to figure out the best way to help you. If needed, they may offer you steps to help you interrupt a panic attack or work your way out of a thought spiral. 

They will listen and help

Counselors may also walk you through some steps to keep yourself safe until the crisis has passed. Once they have seen to your immediate needs, they may direct you to resources online or in your community to help you find ongoing care for your mental health concerns. 

The 988 Lifeline is always free and always confidential, so you never need to worry about reaching out. 

Making a Difference

Suicide is on the rise and is one of the leading causes of death in our country, but it can be prevented. The 988 Lifeline is making huge strides in prevention efforts by providing people a place to turn when they feel hopeless. 

Having somebody to talk to can make all the difference

Studies have shown that almost 98% of people who contact the 988 Lifeline are able to work through their crisis without needing emergency services. Having somebody to talk to can make all the difference. 

Whether it’s yourself or a loved one, a suicidal crisis can be a scary thing to navigate. That’s why we at Bio-One hope this guide will help you know how to intervene to keep yourself or the people you love safe. 

Part of our mission is to provide community resources. That’s why we dedicate so much of our time to projects like this. We want to create a future where we never have to answer another suicide call again. 

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (en español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: dial 711, then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Girl Upset - Suicide Prevention Resources

According to the American Psychiatric Association, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death (after accidents) for people aged 10 to 34. And according the CDC, published reports from 2020 suggest that the pandemic has had a negative effect on children’s mental health. 

“Beginning in April 2020, the proportion of children’s mental health–related ED visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated through October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health–related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24%. and 31%, respectively.”

Researchers have yet to link recent suicides to the pandemic since 2020 suicide data is not yet available. But on the ground, there's growing concern.

The February 2021 NPR article “Child Psychiatrists Warn That The Pandemic May Be Driving Up Kids' Suicide Risk” explores possible correlation. Takeaways include:

  • NPR spoke with providers at hospitals in seven states across the country, and all of them reported a similar trend: More suicidal children are coming to their hospitals — in worse mental states.
  • The number of kids with suicide attempts coming to the emergency room at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, in California, in the fall of 2020 was double the number in the fall of 2019.
  • At Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, the number of children and teens hospitalized after suicide attempts went up from 67 in 2019 to 108 in 2020. And October 2020 saw a 250% increase in these numbers over the previous October.

For ways to help kids at risk, NPR encourages readers to read Part 2 of their story, “Make Space, Listen, Offer Hope: How To Help A Child At Risk Of Suicide”.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Survivors of Suicide – What to Do Next

The loss of a loved one by suicide can be a deeply painful and traumatizing experience; however, it’s important to know that everyone experiences suicide loss in their own way. As you begin the process of healing, consider reading the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s guide for to talk to others about what happened and identify ways to take care of yourself

Additionally, if you have lost someone to suicide, there may be a cleanup required. There is no need for family or friends of the loved one to be further traumatized or overwhelmed with trying to figure out how to clean the impacted area. Bio-One is here for you. Learn more about Bio-One’s suicide remediation services. 

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (en español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: dial 711, then 1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.