Most people who die by suicide have a mental health issue. It may be a depressive or substance abuse disorder. They may feel lonely, depressed, or isolated. They may have had a traumatic life experience. Many of the warning signs of suicidal feelings are also signs of depression.
Warning signs of suicide
People at risk of suicide may have any of these:
Changes in eating and sleep habits
Loss of interest in usual activities
Pulling away from friends and family members
Acting out behaviors
Alcohol and drug use
Not caring about personal appearance
Excessive risk taking
Fixation on death and dying
Increased physical complaints linked to emotional distress, like stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness
Loss of interest in work, school, and community
Feelings of boredom
Feelings of wanting to die
Lack of response to praise
A person is at risk if they show signs of plans to die by suicide. They may:
Give away favorite possessions and throw away important belongings
Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
Express bizarre thoughts
Say “I want to kill myself”
Say “I’m going to commit suicide”
Say “I won’t be a problem much longer”
Say “If anything happens to me, I want you to know ….”
Write one or more suicide notes
The warning signs of suicide may seem like other health problems. Always talk with a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
What action should you take right away?
Take threats of suicide as a cry for help. Always take statements of suicidal feelings, thoughts, behaviors, or plans very seriously. Any person who expresses thoughts of suicide needs help right away.
If someone is threatening suicide:
Call or text
988or 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) right away. When people call or text 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who are part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. An online chat choice is also available. This service is free and available 24/7. Or take the person to the nearest emergency room. Or contact their mental health provider.
Take the person seriously.
Don’t leave the person alone.
Involve other people. Contact friends and family members.
Ask direct questions.
Acknowledge the person’s feelings.
Don’t promise confidentiality.
Keep possibly harmful objects hidden. This includes weapons, firearms, and medicines.
Prepare for the person to need to stay in the hospital, if the healthcare provider advises this.