Suicide Warning Signs
Sometimes people demonstrate outward signs that they are actively or passively considering suicide. These warning signs may include:
- Talking about dying: any mention about dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself or other types of self-harm
- Recent loss such as:
- Divorce or separation
- End of relationship
- Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
- Loss of interest in friends, hobbies, interests once enjoyed
- Change in personality: sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
- Change in behavior: can’t concentrate on school, work or routine tasks
- Change in sleep patterns: insomnia (often with early waking or over sleeping), nightmares
Suicide Risk Inventory
What to do if you think someone might be suicidal
For more information, go to https://stopasuicide.org/action-steps/
Take it seriously. The majority of people who die by suicide gave some indication of their intention to people close to them.
Listen attentively. They will be more willing to seek help if they feel they have been heard.
Voice your concern. Take the initiative to ask what is troubling them and attempt to overcome any reluctance to talk about it.
Let them know you care and understand. Continue to be available and show interest and support.
Remain calm. Although it might be upsetting to hear their thoughts, assure them you are there for them and that help is available.
Ask if they have a specific plan. Research shows that asking about suicide does not cause someone to think about or complete suicide. In fact, it may reduce it. Many people with suicidal thoughts feel relieved to talk about them.
Ways to start the conversation:
- Mention what is concerning you
- “You’ve been acting really down lately”
- “You seem distracted lately”
- Be direct
- “Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”
- Listen and remain calm
- Assure the person that help is available and treatment works
What to avoid:
- Trying to cheer the person up
- Telling them to snap out of it
- Assuming the situation will take care of itself
- Being sworn to secrecy
- Leaving the person alone
- If they are acting in a threatening way, leave and call 911.
Get professional help immediately.
If you feel unsure, uncomfortable or unable to take action
Or if the person seems unwilling to accept treatment
Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Additional ways to access help:
- Crisis Text Line – 24/7 Text Support
- Text HOME to 741741
- Local Crisis Support Lines in your County or City
- Pediatrician / Primary Care Doctor
- School Counselor / Teacher
- Another trusted adult
- Psychologytoday.com – “Find a Therapist”
- Phone number on Private Health Insurance card
- Take precautions to consider your own personal safety. It is important not to put yourself in harm’s way.
- Suicidal crises do not last forever. Timely intervention can make a difference and save a life. Even if someone seems angry at you for helping, in time they will be grateful for it.
Top 10 Reasons You Might Not ACT (But Should!)
- I’m worried, but I don’t know how to help.
- They only said it because they were so angry/sad/emotional at the time.
- They were only joking/assured me that they didn’t mean anything by it.
- They posted on social media, so I’m sure other people will help.
- I don’t know them well enough—if they meant it they would have told someone closer.
- They claim they never said it—I must have misinterpreted what they meant.
- They are just upset about this crisis (job loss, break up, etc.). Once it passes, they’ll be fine.
- They said it to manipulate me/get back at me.
- They’ve threatened before, but have never gone through with it.
- They only said it because they were drunk.*
*Evidence suggests that 25% of people who die by suicide misuse or are dependent on alcohol/drugs. Furthermore, nearly 50% of people who take their own life have alcohol in their system when they die. People who misuse alcohol and also suffer from depressive disorders are at an increased risk for suicide compared to people with major depression or alcoholism alone.