Section Title

Suicide Prevention


  • The Helpline Center is South Dakota's leader in suicide prevention and response. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts please call 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night. All South Dakotans have access to the crisis line all day, every day. The service is free and confidential.
  • Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.
  • Veterans Crisis Line, call 1-800-273-8255 and press option 1.

Did you know that over 41,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States? In fact, more than twice as many people die by suicide each year than by homicide. 

Suicide is tragic, but it is often preventable by knowing the risk factors for suicide and who may be at risk.

Who is At Risk?

The short answer to this question is, quite simply, everyonePeople of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk for suicide. Those most at risk, though, often share certain characteristics such as:

  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder.
  • A prior suicide attempt.
  • Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse.
  • Family history of suicide.
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse.
  • Having guns or other firearms in the home.
  • Incarceration, being in prison or jail.
  • Being exposed to others' suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or media figures.

The quantity of research studies that exist about suicidal behavior shows how complex this issue is. These studies suggest that individuals who attempt suicide are different in how they think, react to events, and make decisions. There is oftentimes the presence of  depression, substance use, anxiety, and psychosis. Suicidal behavior can also be triggered by events such as personal loss or violence.

Many people have some of these risk factors during their lifetimes, but they do not attempt suicide. Suicide is not a normal response to stress. It is, however, a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention.

Men and Women

Men are more likely to die by suicide than women, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. Men are more likely to use deadlier methods, such as firearms or suffocation. Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide by poisoning.


Children and young people are at risk for suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 34. Learn more here. 

Older Adults

Older adults are also at risk for suicide. While older adults were the demographic group with the highest suicide rates for decades, suicide rates for middle aged adults have increased to comparable levels (ages 24-62). Among those age 65+, white males comprise over 80% of all late life suicides.

Is Race a Factor?

Among racial and ethnic groups, American Indians and Alaska Natives tend to have the highest rate of suicides, followed by non-Hispanic Whites. Hispanics tend to have the lowest rate of suicides, while African Americans tend to have the second lowest rate.

Preventing Suicide

Years of research provides helpful information on preventing suicide. The most effective programs are those that consider an individual's risk factors and life experiences in order to develop specific, appropriate interventions. For example, research has shown that mental and substance abuse disorders are risk factors for suicide. Therefore, many programs focus on treating these disorders in addition to addressing suicide risk.

Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," can be helpful. One type is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is designed to teach new ways of dealing with stressful experiences by training people to consider alternative actions when thoughts of suicide arise.

Another type of psychotherapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been shown to reduce the rate of suicide among people with borderline personality disorder, a serious mental illness characterized by unstable moods, relationships, self-image, and behavior. A therapist trained in DBT helps a person recognize when his or her feelings or actions are disruptive or unhealthy, and teaches the skills needed to deal better with upsetting situations.

Medications may also help, and researchers continue to test promising medications and psychosocial treatments for people who may be at risk for suicide.

Healthcare providers play an important role in prevention. Some research found that many older adults and women who die by suicide saw their primary care providers in the year before death. Training healthcare providers to recognize signs that a person may be considering suicide may help prevent even more suicides.

What should I do if someone I know is considering suicide?

If you know someone who may be considering suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from a doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or CALL 9-1-1. Remove access to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications.

Additional Resources