Suicide: Warning signs, how to help, and how to get help
Recognizing warning signs is an important part of helping to prevent suicide because many people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts do not ask for help.
- Mental health conditions – depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, conduct disorder, psychotic disorders or psychotic symptoms, anxiety disorders.
- Substance abuse / addiction
- Serious or chronic health condition and/or pain.
- Exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide
- Access to lethal means including firearms and drugs
- Prolonged stress factors which may include harassment, bullying, relationship problems, and unemployment
- Stressful life events which may include a death, divorce, or job loss
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of mental health conditions
- Previous suicide attempts
- Childhood abuse
- Increased or inappropriate anger or rage
- Suddenly becoming cheerful after a period of depression
- Excessive guilt or shame
- Mood swings
- Talking about:
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Being a burden to others
- Lack of interest in appearance
- Disturbed sleep
- Change/loss of weight or appetite
- Physical health complaints
- Withdrawal from family, friends, school or work
- Loss of interest in leisure activities or hobbies
- Misuse or abuse of alcohol and/or drugs
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
- Giving away possessions
- Changes in work or school performance
A person’s suicide risk may be greater if a behavior is new or has increased, especially if it is related to a painful event, loss, or change.
Many people who are thinking about suicide may not come out directly and say so. Instead, they may use euphemisms or expressions that indicate they are thinking about suicide, such as:
- “All of my problems will end soon.”
- “No one can do anything to help me now.”
- “I just can’t take it anymore.”
- “I am a burden to everyone.”
- “I can’t do anything right.”
- “I just want it all to end.”
*** Keep in mind that these signs could look different for each person and there can be more signs than what’s listed here. ***
How to help:
Talking about suicide
Many people are hesitant to ask directly if someone is considering suicide for fear that they may give them the idea. This is generally not the case, and asking directly about suicide could save their life. It may bring the person relief that someone has noticed their distress.
- Ask directly “Are you thinking about suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
- Remain non-judgmental.
- Don’t lecture, get angry, or minimize. Saying things like “suicide is a selfish act” or otherwise attempting to use guilt to change the person’s mind is unlikely to be helpful and will only make them feel worse.
- Don’t push solutions – sometimes just being there to listen is all you need to do.
- Offer support and show that you care.
- Involve other supports.
- Encourage the person to seek help.
How to get help:
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Lifeline Crisis Intervention Specialists are always available to talk to someone who is in crisis, having thoughts of suicide, or needs support. You can also call the Lifeline for support if you are concerned for someone else who may be having thoughts of suicide.
Lifeline Crisis Chat service is available 24/7 at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Crisis Teen Textline is available to youth 24/7 at 504-777-3273
Unmet needs and lack of resources can cause people to feel helpless, which may lead to thoughts of suicide. 2-1-1 can help connect callers to resources in their area, making a seemingly hopeless situation a little more manageable. Click here to find out more about how 2-1-1 can help.
Veterans in crisis can call the Lifeline and PRESS 1 when they hear the prompt to be directed to the Veterans Crisis Line. Veterans can also access text and chat counseling at veteranscrisisline.net.