A psychiatrist explains how to talk to someone who may be considering suicide

The world experienced a double shock this week. On Tuesday, fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead in her New York City residence, and on Friday, celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain, host of the CNN travel show "Parts Unknown," was found dead in his hotel room in France at the age of 61. CNN confirmed the death, calling it a suicide. 

Their deaths came the same week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study showing suicide rates in the U.S. are on the rise in almost every state

Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz told "CBS This Morning: Saturday" that the best way to start a conversation with a loved one or friend you are worried about is to simply start with, "Can I talk to you." 

Saltz said you can say: "I really notice that you're suffering or you're down or I'm noticing this and I want to listen. I want to be here. Please tell me what you're feeling." 

She recommends being direct once they've opened up.

"Then you say, 'Have you thought about harming yourself? Have you thought about taking your life?' Be really direct. It is a myth that asking about suicide will cause someone to commit suicide. You want to ask them," she said. 

If they have had those thoughts? Ask for details, she said. 

"Do they have a plan? Do they have a means? If they do say they have a plan or a means, you want to take that away. You can save a life by, frankly, removing the gun, removing the pills, taking away their method in the moment, because it can be an impulsive act, and then you want to say, 'Hey, I really want to take you to get some help.' Help them to find the place they can go, the therapist they can see, the emergency room they can go to and take them if need be," Saltz said. 

According to Saltz, more often than not, people will open up about their feelings when asked. 

"It's the feeling that they won't be understood, that they won't be listened to, that they'll be ashamed, that they'll be stigmatized," she said. 

"Maybe even say, 'Look I've had difficult times, too. I really understand.' But mostly are listening and empathic. Believe me, people are very willing to talk about it if you open that door for them."

Warning signs of suicide

Health officials recommend that everyone familiarize themselves with the warning signs of suicide, which may include:

  • A person thinking about or threatening suicide or seeking a way to kill themself
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Feelings of purposelessness, anxiety, being trapped, or hopeless
  • Social isolation and withdrawing from people and activities
  • Expressing unusual anger, recklessness, or mood changes

Risk factors of suicide

  • A history of mental health issues including depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorders
  • Stressful life events
  • Family history of suicide
  • Childhood abuse or trauma

For immediate help if you are in a crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.