If your life is in danger, call the police at 110

Make a difference and save lives. Suicide is preventable. Saving lives is something we can all do. Suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death facing our societies today.  Pain isn’t always noticeable, but most people who kill themselves display definite signals or talk about suicide. Many live with anxiety or are depressed.

Recognize the warning signs and risk factors. Our ability to recognize the signs and our willingness to talk about mental health, depression, and suicide is the first step in providing help to the people who need it. Below is a list of common warning signs and risk factors.

How to tell if someone you care about needs help

If you are worried that someone you know may be thinking about killing themselves. Look for these warning signs. The more signs you see, the greater the risk.

Recognizing when someone may be thinking about suicide.

Suicide is serious. If you are worried that someone you know may be thinking about suicide, the following information will be helpful. Please remember that if you are supporting someone with suicidal thoughts, it is important to take care of yourself as well.

  • Death of a loved one, especially by suicide
  • An important relationship unraveling or ending
  • Instability or turmoil in the family / at home
  • A severe change in social status or a sense of belonging
  • Unemployment, loss of a highly valued ability or activity
  • Fear of disciplinary action/incarceration/physical violence
  • Trauma from sexual or other assault
  • Trauma from serious illness or injury
  • Major financial/economic loss
  • Depression. “Nothing seems important anymore. It’s no use.”
  • Elation (suddenly, after someone has been in a lot of distress). “Everything is perfect now! I’m doing great. ”
  • Hopelessness/helplessness. “There is nothing I can do to change this.”
  • Intense worry/anxiety. “Everything is falling apart. I’m such a failure/disappointment.”
  • Loss of purpose. “There is nothing to live for. What’s the point (of living)?”
  • Overwhelmed. “I can’t endure this anymore. It’s all too much to bear.”
  • Recklessness/impulsiveness. “I don’t care if I get hurt.”
  • Worthlessness. “I can’t do anything right. No one will miss me if I’m gone.”
  • Aggressive, violent behaviour; rage/revengeful acts
  • Changes in energy level (up or down)
  • Complaints about health
  • Decreased or increased performance (school, work, hobbies, sports)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Disturbed eating and/or sleeping (increase or decrease)
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Negative social media posts
  • Risky impulsive activities
  • Self-neglect (appearance or hygiene)
  • Withdrawal/isolation from people/activities that were once enjoyable
  • Giving away prized possessions, making a will, settling loose ends

  • Making jokes, poems, drawings or other references to suicide, death or dying

  • News reports of other suicides by someone the person relates to or admires

  • Pre-exisiting psychiatric disorder such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders

  • Preparing for death

  • Previous unresolved or recent suicide attempt

  • Saying goodbye or talking about going away unexpectedly, or with a sense of finality

  • Saying things such as ‘Life isn’t worth it…’ or ‘Things would be better if I was gone…’

  • Talking about suicide, death or dying

  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Suddenly happier, calmer.
  • Loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
  • Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order.
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

How to respond to a person with thoughts of suicide

If you suspect someone may be struggling to cope or even feeling suicidal, ask them directly, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”. Don’t be afraid to do this. It shows them that you care. It could save their life. 

Asking about suicide won’t put the thought in their head if it wasn’t there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to say, “Yes, I am” and acknowledge they need help.

Here are some listening tips:

  • Ask direct questions such as “Are you thinking about suicide?” “Do you have a plan for how you will kill yourself?’” The more realistic and specific the plan, the greater the risk. Take the answers seriously. Recognize the potential signals.

  • Listen. Accept how the person is feeling. Don’t minimize or judge them. Let them know that it is okay to feel the way they do. Avoid joking around or acting shocked.

  • Offer help. Communicate that you care and want to help, you could offer to work on a Safety Plan with them when they are feeling calmer. 

  • Listen, support and encourage them to get the help they need. 

  • Help them help themselves. Suggest that they talk to someone, such as a relative, close friend, teacher, counsellor, doctor, or nurse. If they won’t get help for themselves, get it for them. Find someone reliable. If they already see a doctor or other mental health provider, it’s important that they tell them about any thoughts of suicide they may have been having.

  •  If you think the person’s life is in immediate danger please call 119 for an ambulance or 110 for the police. If possible can you go to them or find someone who can stay with them until emergency services can be with them. Most people won’t attempt suicide unless they’re alone.

If you are reporting on behalf of someone else, please be aware that you will need to provide emergency services with contact information including the person’s name, contact details and address.

  • Call a Crisis Centre. Crisis Centres, like TELL, give support and information to people in distress, as well as to the people who care about them. Anyone who is suicidal needs the help of a professional and a Crisis Centre can provide appropriate information and support.

  • Be firm and focused. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep or don’t intend to keep. Never promise to keep their suicide a secret. Never dare a person or say you don’t believe them. Never leave a high risk person alone without making sure that they have help. You may be tempted to believe it is just talk, an accident or that they are just looking for attention.  However, it is important to recognize that there is a serious risk of death and that the person you are speaking with needs help to stay safe. 

While they may feel like they have to act now, it’s worth encouraging them to postpone that decision.

They can make a Safety Plan when they are calmer, that includes a list of things they can do to distract themselves and a list of people they can reach out to for support.

Thoughts of suicide do not disappear easily. The continuing involvement of family and friends is very important to the person’s recovery. Take care of yourself.

  • It can be emotionally draining to support someone who is suicidal; don’t do it on your own. Find someone to talk to: friends, family or the TELL Lifeline.
  • Keep in mind that it isn’t your job to fix their life or solve their problems.

Follow up with the person and show that you care. Let them know you are there for them and one of their supports.

Would You Like To Know More?

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Emergency Numbers

Emergency Services

Police: 110
Fire: 119
Ambulance: 119

Emergency Medical Interpretation Service

Monday to Friday 17:00 – 20:00
Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays 9:00 – 20:00

Tokyo Multilingual Police

(English, Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese)
Monday to Friday 8:30 – 17:15 Telephone: 03-3501-0110                          Translation is available 24 hours every day via 110              

Drug Overdose & Poison Control Centers

U.S. Air Force Hospital, Yokota: 0425-52-2511, ext. 57740
Honolulu Poison Control Center: 1-808-941-4411
Osaka Toxicity: 0990-50-2499, 06-871-9999