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16 Suicide Warning Signs & Behaviors To Recognize

If you or someone you know is depressed, there is a chance that suicidal thoughts may accompany their depression. If left untreated, depression is known to be one of the top causes of suicide. In up to 90% of suicides, an underlying mental illness – usually depression was the most influential factor. Although untreated mental health issues can be the biggest influence on whether someone makes a decision to take their life, there are other suicide risk factors such as: being unemployed, financial troubles, death of a loved one, relationship problems, etc.

These other factors and life circumstances can have a huge impact on whether someone decides to follow through with the act. In most cases, there is some sort of treatment available that will help improve a person’s situation. Individuals that are suicidal do not usually really want to die, rather they see dying as the only solution to the pain that they are currently facing. Typically when a person’s ability to cope with their pain and/or their pain is reduced, they no longer feel suicidal.

For individuals that are concerned with the wellbeing of another person who is suicidal, it is important to understand suicide warning signs – or behaviors that could signal that the person is prepared to follow through with the act. If you recognize any of these warning signs, be sure to take the person seriously and get help. Get the person in for therapy and/or if they pose an immediate threat to their own life, call the police.

Suicide Warning Signs: List Of Possibilities

Below are a list of common warning signs to look for when a person is suicidal. Keep in mind that not every suicidal person will exhibit all of these signs. Additionally some people may be suicidal and not exhibit any of these signs. However, usually those who are close to the suicidal person should be able to pick up on a few signs.

1. Talking about suicide: Perhaps the biggest and most obvious warning sign is when a person talks about suicide. They may casually bring up the topic, but usually the individual may talk about wanting to take their own life. The problem with this is that many people do not take this talk very seriously or think it’s just a phase that will eventually pass. If someone brings up suicide and/or suggests that they may take their own life, it must be taken very seriously.

2. Untreated depression: If a person is clinically depressed, they may be prone to crying spells, have difficulty getting out of bed, problems sleeping and eating, and feel hopeless about their situation. When a person’s depression is untreated, they are in a state of pain and basically shut down. Their thinking becomes clouded by the depression that they are experiencing and they may feel as though life is pointless due to the way that they feel.

3. Giving away possessions: One of the most obvious warning signs is when a depressed individual gives away all of their possessions. Uneducated people may be confused as to why a person would give away their property without reason. Usually family and/or close friends will take note of a person giving all of their valuable property away. When they confront the person, they may say that they won’t need it anymore, etc. Giving things away can be one of the key signs that a person is planning on following through with taking their life.

4. Saying “goodbye”: In many cases, a person will visit family and/or other close friends prior to following through with the act to say “goodbye.” They want to tie up loose ends and let the people that are close to them know that they care about them a lot. Sometimes it may not seem like a “goodbye,” rather it may seem as though the person is spending some time with everyone that is important to them. Watch out for this type of behavior – the person will generally pursue most immediate family and friends for some closure. Keep in mind that saying “goodbye” could also be over the phone or via text message.

5. Suicide notes: An extremely obvious warning sign is that of a suicide note. In this note a person may write about a variety of topics including: how much they will miss their family, that they love their friends, the pain that they are dealing with, and in some cases, why they must end their life. If you find a suicide note, be sure to take it very seriously because the person may follow through with the act. Get the person some sort of help and if they are unwilling, you may need to call 911 with the note in hand.

6. Alcohol & drugs: In many cases when a person is suicidal, they may turn to abusing alcohol or other drugs as a way to escape these feelings. Although they may find temporary relief from their pain as a result of their substance use, in many cases alcohol and drugs make the situation worse. Many times the person ends up increasingly depressed following the usage of substances. It should also be noted that when a person is serious about following through with the act of suicide, they may drink, pop pills, etc. so that they can build up the courage follow through with it. Be on the lookout for the person using alcohol, drugs, and/or both more frequently to the point of abuse – this is a warning sign.

7. Change to “calm” demeanor: Often leading up to a suicide, a person will exhibit a change in mood from being very sad to a general calmness and/or in some cases, appearing happy. If you notice that a person is all of a sudden very calm and was previously extremely depressed, this may be a red flag. The calmness and/or happier appearance is generally due the person being convinced that they are going to follow through with the act.

8. Reckless behavior: When a person has decided to take their own life, they may engage in more reckless behavior and decision making. For example, they may speed while driving, drive through red lights, try illicit drugs, have unprotected sex, shoplifting, etc. This reckless behavior is usually due to the person not caring about their life anymore. In some cases, this behavior is easily noticed by others close to the individual who is suicidal. If you notice someone acting reckless, especially someone who was previously more reserved, it may be warning sign.

9. Researching suicide methods: You may notice on the person’s internet browser history that they have been researching painless suicide methods and/or how to kill themselves. If you see this in the person’s search history, take it very seriously and assume that they are going to follow through with the act. In this case, the person needs some sort of immediate help and intervention to help them get out of the pain that they are in. Help guide the person by getting them in for help and if they refuse, call the police.

10. Buying suicide materials: If you catch someone who is severely depressed and/or suicidal purchasing materials to help them follow through with the act, this needs to be addressed. For example, the person may be visiting pawn shops or auctions looking to buy a gun. They may also be buying things like rope, pills, knives, razors, etc. online or at general stores. Purchasing materials shows that the person is ready to go through with the act, and now has the means to carry the act out.

11. Creating a Will: A person who has plans of suicide may take the steps to create a will so that their loved ones get their possessions when they pass. Additionally if a person already has a will, they may make some last-minute revisions to it before following through with the act. If you notice any preoccupation with the creation of a will accompanied by the person giving away prized possessions, this could be a warning sign.

12. Social withdrawal or isolation: Another very common warning sign leading up to suicide is that of social withdrawal. Many people isolate themselves from friends, colleagues, and other family members. This increased social withdrawal can actually make the person more depressed and suicidal than they already are. Prior to committing suicide, a person may gradually withdraw from friendships, social commitments, and extracurricular or work related functions. If you notice someone – (especially someone who was previously very involved) – withdrawing from these functions, this could be another indication that the person is suicidal.

13. Talking about being a burden: If you notice someone talking about being a “burden” to others including friends, family, etc. – this could indicate that they feel as if they aren’t wanted. Feelings of being a burden may make the person feel like an outcast and may contribute to depression and/or suicidal ideation. When someone frequently says that they are a burden and/or all that they do is cause problems for others, this can be a warning sign.

14. Feeling hopeless: When someone says that they are in a hopeless situation or that they have no hope for their future, this could suggest suicide as well. Besides feeling hopeless to change their situation, the person may describe themselves as being “helpless” and/or “worthless.” Anytime someone lacks hope to improve their current situation or future and thinks that they are worthless, this signifies that they need some sort of help. If a person feels this way, especially for a long period of time, they may end up turning to suicide.

15. Preoccupation with death: Individuals who are preoccupied with death and/or think about it often may be considering suicide. You may notice a person openly talking about death, researching it, and considering the afterlife. Although death can be a topic of normal conversation, the preoccupation with it is what could suggest that a person may be suicidal.

16. Previous suicide attempt: It is estimated that between 20% and 50% of people who take their own life had previously attempted suicide. If someone you know has previously attempted suicide and is acting suicidal, take it very seriously. Statistics show that if a person has tried it once, they are more likely to try it again in the future. If you suspect that something may be in the works, talk to the person and listen to what’s on their mind.

Other warning signs of suicide include:

  • Commentary such as “I want to die” – If you hear anyone say things like “I wish I was never born,” “I wish I was dead,” or “I don’t want to be here anymore,” they are probably thinking of suicide. Keep this in mind and either help the person yourself or get them some sort of help.
  • Rage / revenge seeking – In some cases a person may be motivated by rage or threaten to take their life as some sort of revenge. Although most cases of suicide involve depression, there are cases involving anger and rage.
  • Losing interest in life – People who lose interest in life and/or previously important things are likely already going through depression. If the person is not able to regain some sort of interest, they may be thinking of suicide.

What should you do if you think someone is suicidal?

Get help. The best thing you can do for someone who is suicidal is to get them some sort of help. You could get them to agree to go in for therapy and/or some sort of psychiatric intervention. If the person refuses to change and you suspect that they may take their own life, do not hesitate to call the police. Many people are afraid to call the police when a person is suicidal, yet it can be the exact intervention needed to turn a person’s situation around.

Prior to calling the police though, talk to the person by speaking up. Don’t argue with the person, just be empathetic to their situation and promise that you’re going to get some sort of help. Once you ask a few questions about their situation, determine the degree to which you think the person will carry out the act. Ask them whether they have a plan, whether they have materials, if they know when they would do it, or if they still have the intention.

If the person says that they have a plan and materials, you may want to recruit extra help. If you are able to remove potentially lethal objects from the person’s possession, take this step. Continue to offer the person help and support and encourage them to seek treatment. Also come up with a safety plan or contract to further minimize their risk of self-harm. It takes a lot of courage to intervene when someone is suicidal, but at the end of the day, you may save someone’s life.

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{ 20 comments… add one }
  • We bysouth March 14, 2016, 5:28 pm

    I am fearful of a friend who is more or less doing and saying all of the above descriptors. She is within the mental health system, but lies about how she really is. She is worried that she will be sectioned. I am at a loss of what to do.

    • Paul Carew March 16, 2016, 8:40 am

      If she is saying or doing a lot of those warning signs she may be acting out a call for help. It is recommended to talk about suicide directly. Talking about it is not likely to give the person ideas on suicide, but provide the opportunity to talk about what is on their mind. Also if she is afraid of talking to mental health authorities, perhaps ensuring her that whatever you two talk about will remain between you two, will make her feel free to open up. A key component to successful recovery from depression is social support outside of the professional arena.

  • Claire Hunter April 6, 2016, 3:34 am

    My friend from school says she wants to kill herself. I don’t know why. I tried asking, but all she said was that she was sad. She didn’t give me any detail. I want to tell someone, but then I think that she’ll get mad. I don’t want her to be mad, but I also don’t want her to kill herself. Please help me. I don’t know what to do.

    • J April 12, 2016, 4:43 am

      Claire, talk to your parents about it right away!! Tell them everything that’s been going on with her. Your friend needs help, and your parents will be able to help you get her help.

  • Mar June 4, 2016, 9:16 pm

    Got more than 75% of the signs listed above. Have attempted more than once suicidal acts in the past. Really don’t know the core of this problem and had never seek help from professionals. Few of my friends knew about this. I immediately call them every time I have my episodes and they never fail to comfort me. However… sometimes its just difficult to control myself. But… I’m still holding on at this moment. :)

    • Patty Blue Hayes July 29, 2016, 3:00 am

      Mar – I’m so sorry to hear you have these recurring feelings. I endured those awful emotions a few years ago at the end of my marriage, and thankfully, in time my suicidal thoughts diminished as I healed. Do you know about NAMI and other organizations that offer forums for people to post how they’re feeling? I think it’s so beneficial to be able to share our feelings and feel like someone understands.

      It’s great that you have supportive friends, and I can imagine the support you may experience from other people who’ve had lived experience and survived their attempts. Also, the National Suicide Hotline is there anytime we’re feeling like we just want someone to talk to. I used to think hotlines for only when you were at the brink of taking action – but they want us to call long before it gets to that point.

      There’s even a number to text, or chat options, too, with The Trevor Project.
      http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now
      http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

      My thoughts are with you – and I hope you find some peace and comfort. Working with a good therapist has been very helpful for me. I wish you an upward journey. Patty

  • Juliet Smith July 10, 2016, 12:19 pm

    The problem is that every site just suggests psychology. Never in my long life have I seen this actually help a person. It is the socially validated answer, but it is as worthless as a sugar pill on a serious illness; the placebo effect may work on some mild cases or give them a post of hope in the beginning, but that is the best you can get from psychology.

    There are rare individuals who can really be of help, but those individuals certainly do not need a degree in the social sciences, which are really about as scientific as religion when you get down to it. Depression isn’t always chemical, we assume to often it is, and psychologists don’t actually have answers outside of locking a person up or drugging them. Here is some alternative ideas:

    1. Get them to exercise outside.

    2. Shower them with real concern and love.

    3. Really and truly listen to them. You are their social circle – I assume if you are looking for answers here. They need you more then some psychologist.

    4. If life is feeling too hard for them find out why. Gather the people who love the person to help fix the reasons that life sucks.

    5. Sometimes the evil and ignorance in the world alone can make good people give up. Show them lots of beautiful things and beautiful stories. They need to see the world isn’t full of selfish jerks.

    6. Don’t invalidate their pain. It’s not always chemical or anything else you may accidentally use to invalidate their pain.

    7. Do something nice for them without asking or looking for points. Seriously sad people often need to see the world is full of good people. Telling them that the world is good and people are good will go in one ear and out the other. Show them.

    8. Don’t shame them or act like their desire to die has made them less of a person.

    9. Love them show them they are valued.

    • Mel August 30, 2016, 3:31 am

      I wish I had a friend like you. Your friends are very lucky. I plan on taking my life tomorrow. I’ve been thinking about it for almost 2 years. But made the decision about 5 weeks ago. The day I made the decision to end my life, I felt free. I knew that waking up every morning with my heart beating out of my chest terrified of the pain of the day had an end in sight. I would be over soon…

      But I didn’t want to be totally selfish. So I have been taking care of all my affairs. Every last detail I can think of is done. There will be no unanswered questions. And for those thinking, keep fighting or I didn’t try. I did. I really really did. I went to therapy twice a week for a long time. It didn’t help me. It just highlighted more reasons that somewhere along the line, my life became a life I didn’t recognize anymore. They say, when shit gets hard, you’ll find out who your real friends and loved ones are.

      Well, that couldn’t be more true. I had been under this illusion that I had a concrete tribe of people that loved me. I surely had been there for them more times that I can count. Picked them off the floor of their darkness and battled their demons with them. But when it was me, gone. And gone pretty quickly. Even my family. I had a really seemingly great family. But we weren’t allowed to talk about our feelings. So feelings felt wrong and ugly.

      A then a couple really ugly and horrible things happened and I had nobody to talk to. So of course, I bottled things up until one day I exploded. Just uncontrollable crying. And from that moment, when I showed weakness and raw emotions, I have been running around trying to make my friends and family feel better. And try to get some of them to not give up on me. I’ll never understand why I deserved to die alone.

      But, I asked for help. I did everything that was suggested and then some. I wanted my happy life back. But it is true, you can’t get through something like this without a support system. I think I’m a pretty strong person. I lasted this long. But not only do you just need people but you need to know you will have people there when you fight and endure the pain. The only solution to my pain and suffering, is death.

      I didn’t understand suicide for a long time. Now, if anyone I loved felt like I have, I would understand. I would do everything I could to help them. Unfortunately for me, I really misread people for the last couple decades. Because I thought I had the kind of people that would stay not run because it’s too hard or it interferes with their current issues or it casts a black cloud on our perfect little family or group of friends.

      My goodbye letters are done, every question carefully answered. Because I don’t want to be any kind of burden and I’ve done everything to make this quick and easy to everyone can go back as if I didn’t exist, which is basically how it’s been for a very very long time. But to anyone reading this, don’t give up on your friends. Don’t give them tough love.

      They feel alone and are beating up on themselves more than all the people in their lives combined could ever measure up to. Hope. Hope is all they need and it’s not that hard to give someone if you really love them. Be kind to each other.

      • Nada August 31, 2016, 1:51 am

        Please don’t give up. I am writing this to you right now so you see there is hope. Go outside and vigorously exercise, breath, meditate, give back to someone in need, take omega-3 supplements/vitamin C/ vitamin D, whatever it takes… Check out this book: The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs by Stephen S. Ilardi (Author). It may help. Don’t give up.

      • Tlc August 31, 2016, 3:00 am

        Please don’t do this! I’m a survivor of my sons suicide 2 months ago. I’m in so much pain! You can’t leave friends and family behind! It hurts so badly! People love you! People need you!

      • Laura August 31, 2016, 2:36 pm

        Tomorrow – Most people live for it. You would too if things were better. They can get better. When I am down I think I am the only one going through this and then I hear almost everybody has something not right. Reach out. Is anyone out there going through what I am and let’s get well together. Give it a try your solution is hopeless with mine there is hope.

        Life is just once it beat you down. Take my hand and stand up and go forward to a better place. Find your inner strength. Be well and heal I know your family will be there for you. Please hope not hopeless. Just look outside and see a bird or a tree or a puppy happiness is everywhere and you deserve to be happy too. Don’t let everyone down. Rise up.

      • Chris October 10, 2016, 4:24 am

        Mel…I hope this finds you well. Please don’t do this. There are so many different ways to rise up from the darkness. Hope is your key to the future.

      • Nara November 24, 2016, 8:33 am

        Suffering from depression myself and it’s not gone yet. I don’t like my family much (Or rather I hate my parents) except for my younger brother who is in the same situation like me (I don’t think he got depression tho). All I could say is that I’m going to wait, wait, wait, and try to make my life better.

        All those good endings in stories that I watched or read helps a lot cause if I exclude the bit of happy memory here and there, they are the ones that really keep me going and willing to wait through all the suffering to see if I ever ended up being happy. Would be nice if I do find someone nice to be with even if it doesn’t last that long.

        If I did go through with suicide back when I was young (by young I mean when I’m like 7 years old), I won’t get to meet people that I really like (as a friend). From what I experienced, I’m going to see how long I can hold out and if will I get to experience those lovely moments or not. Also, depression is what got me into psychology. XD

  • Gabby August 10, 2016, 10:58 pm

    My Dad just told me if I really wanted to shoot myself, I would have already done it. This hurt so bad for him to say this. He doesn’t know what goes through my head nor do I think he cares. He is a cold bastard. He took some kind of citizens police course and now he is an authority on everything.

    • Nara November 24, 2016, 8:38 am

      My parents are more or less the same over here. Well, good luck finding people who can understand and just keep holding out as long as you can. Your efforts might just be worth it.

  • Marie September 26, 2016, 3:14 am

    People and doctors say that people need you. Really? No one has checked on me or call me in days. If I go tonight, they will not notice. When would they notice?

  • Amanda October 22, 2016, 10:21 pm

    I have no one. I’m all alone. I got diagnosed with cancer, I lost my job and then my fiancé left me. All within the span of 2 months. I’ve been trying to tell myself my kids need me, but my kids are grown, they don’t really need me. I have no friends, no support and I just can’t cope anymore. No tomorrow will not be better. I’m tired of feeling hopeless. I’m tired of being alone.

  • Zena November 1, 2016, 8:28 pm

    Mel please don’t do this. There are good people on this planet and YOU are one of them. My brother took his own life two years ago, which broke my heart. More sad is that my brother did not know how loved he was. You sound like a kind and caring person. Love and care for yourself you deserve it.

  • Elly November 6, 2016, 2:53 pm

    I have been struggling emotionally and having suicidal thoughts. The only person who has stood by me is my husband. He told me today I am ruining his life. I can’t take anymore I just want the worthlessness and guilt to go away. I want to fall asleep and never wake up. I have started taking tablets lithium and Seroquel and antidepressants. Then my family and everyone can live their lives. I am no good to anyone. Everyone hates me.

  • Patrick November 9, 2016, 2:00 am

    I feel bad because I am transgender and also Asperger. Seeing therapist does not help me. All I want is really a hormonal transition. Sometimes I don’t feel good.

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