If someone you know has said they are going to kill themselves, take them seriously. If they have said it a hundred times, take them seriously. There have been many instances where a person said they were going to kill themselves and were not taken seriously because they had said it so many times before. If you have heard it again and again depression is a possibility and depression is treatable, but untreated depression can lead to suicide.
Be aware though that suicide is not always a long term plan for long term pain. It can be a risk anytime the pain, whether it is emotional or physical makes life seem like it is not worth living. Individuals who have recently experienced a great personal loss or tragedy are often at a higher risk for suicide than they would be on an everyday basis. Rape victims fall into that category, as do those who have suffered a great personal loss or even just witnessed that loss. Caregivers and rescuers in times of great disaster, may well need counseling at some point to safely work through issues that develop as a result of the horror they have witnessed.
Although it is so old fashioned we don't always see it as a solution, talking it out may still be one of the best cures. Extended family, friends, church, community, neighbors and school still offer the first line of support in times of disaster. If to every time there truely is a season, a time of great emotional turmoil or disaster is truely the time to reach out and come together for mutual support.
Often, as in the case of violence or physical disasters, there is a lot (maybe seemingly over whelming amounts of work) that has to be done just to survive. That in a time when every step may be excruciating. Somewhere in there though is the time and need to talk. From the outside looking in, talking to someone working through a trauma may seem endless. They may need to talk about it way past the point where anyone wants to listen, and it's stil not enough. They still to talk and maybe talk some more. You may need to as well.
That given, if a person close to you has mentioned suicide, talk about it to them. If you even think they may be at risk, talk about it.
Find out if they have the means, or have already injured themselves. It is a good idea if you have a suicidal family member to remove the means, (i.e. if you have guns in the house, you might not want them just now, are medications locked away, look around your house and try to remove the means, don't make it easy).
How do they plan to do it. Do they have the means? Have they planned it out? How serious and immediate are the plans? Do they have future plans, for tomorrow, or are there no future plans? Many times a person who has been very depressed and suicidal for a long time will suddenly seem happy and content, like everything is finally right with the world, however, but this may be after they have made the decision to do it? Are they putting their affairs in order now?
Are they intoxicated, or have they been using drugs. Drugs and alcohol are present at many suicides. Those who abuse alcohol and drugs are at high risk. If the person has already injured themselves or the danger is immediate you may have to call for help. 911 intervention may be necessary. If a person has attempted to kill themselves you may save their life, but they will need counseling to resolve the issues that led to the attempt. Although there are exceptions, especially in times of disaster, most people do not decide on the spur of the moment to kill themselves, it is "usually" a long and deliberate decision, a last resort.
Usually is the key word there though, and that doesn't mean always. If you think you may be at risk, talk about it. Make a plan. What will you do, or who will you call if you find that you are suicidal?
If you have already had suicidal thoughts, take steps to take care of yourself. You need to reach outside yourself for help. Is there a close friend you can talk to, a family member, minister or neighbor. Is there a crisis line you can call. Many areas have 24 hour trained counselors who can talk you through your feelings, and the service is free.
Many county mental health centers have counselors on call. Grohol's Webpage has a listing of on line services where you can connect with volunteers via e-mail. You might also want to check out the Web Dex on Support Services for connecting with others and work toward resolving some of those issues that lead up to the suicide attempt. Make a list of your support resources and once you have made your list, use it. What will you do to take care of yourself? Is it time to check into a hospital?
If you or someone you love is suicidal, it is time to reach out. Professional help is often covered by insurance. Many counseling centers will work on a sliding fee, and services may be free from your mental health center if there is financial need. Trained volunteer counselors may be free through local crisis lines, and are there because they care. If there is no local crisis line, the one nearest you may accept collect calls. Call your area directory assistance or go online at http://www.befrienders.org/ for the phone number. Use their services, find out from them what other services are available in your area, then use those services. Most of all connect.