Suicide: The Warning Signs

Reviewed Aug 29, 2022

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Summary

If someone you care about is thinking about suicide:

  • Take all threats seriously.
  • Get immediate expert help.
  • Help the person get to a safe place.

Every year in the U.S., there are substantially more suicide attempts than actual completed suicides. But for those that happen, friends, co-workers and loved ones often are left shocked and guilt-ridden for not noticing the danger signs for suicide before it was too late.
 
If we keep our eyes and ears open, we might be able to spot trouble before it progresses to a desperate point. Don’t let hindsight be the only way you spot a loved one’s problem. Learn the warning signs of suicide today:

1. A person thinking about suicide may talk of despair and hopelessness.

Depression—the number one cause of suicide—is related to a sense of loss and hopelessness. This serious but treatable mental health condition can be caused by many things, including a chemical imbalance in the brain or a trauma.

Depression, combined with traumatic life events, such as losing a job, home, pet or a loved one, or being the target of bullying, can make people feel hopeless. When a person has no support system—no parents, no partner, no friends—they lose hope that anything in life will change for the better. 

Listen for talk about too many bad things piling up, or some particular situation being “the last straw.” Someone considering suicide may feel helpless, no longer in charge of their own life.

They may be looking at the world from a narrow point of view and see no way out. The end of life may seem like an antidote to their own emotional or physical pain, or that of loved ones.

2. They may appear to be preparing for departure.

Your teen starts giving away their treasured clothes or jewelry. A co-worker decides to train a colleague to do their job. A friend calls you late at night to apologize for a rift that occurred years ago.

Be on alert if, all of a sudden, someone you know starts tying up loose ends, or giving you gifts that they “always wanted to give you.” Long-belated apologies or too many compliments may be your friend’s way of leaving an emotional gift behind. That special attention could be goodbye disguised as generosity.

3. They might talk or joke about different methods to complete suicide.

Take all talk of suicide seriously, even if it is couched in a joke. Pay attention. Is this behavior out of character? Is it something new? Is this person dealing with many difficulties? Rely on your radar.

Who is at risk?

We all have problems at different times in our lives, but everyone does not attempt suicide, even when problems are serious. Certain situations and environments seem to go hand-in-hand with a person’s wish to end their life. Here are some of the biggest risk factors: 

  • Depression, substance use or a combination of the two. More than 90% of people who die by suicide have these risk factors.
  • The early stages of recovery from depression. Sometimes a person in recovery is at higher risk of suicide than they might have been prior to treatment. Recovery is a slow process that does not always move in a linear fashion. They may take one step forward, two steps back, and then feel like they failed their last chance at peace and happiness. A person in recovery needs a great deal of support.
  • Prior attempts at suicide. More than 10 times as many people attempt suicide as die by it. Most people who die by suicide have attempted it before. 
  • Living in a family with substance use, domestic abuse and/or poor mental health.
  • The suicide of a family member or someone a person loves or admires, such as a favorite entertainer, teacher or friend.  
  • Guns available in the home. More than half of suicides involve firearms.
  • Poor support structure. Without the support of a circle of friends, family, spiritual community or friendly co-workers, anyone can easily fall through the cracks in a crisis.
  • Living in a high-incidence environment. Some cities and states have higher suicide rates than others.

What can you do or say?

  • Talk to your loved one in a warm, nonjudgmental way. Say you care, and want to help. Do everything you can to reduce any embarrassment they might feel over what they are going through. Tell them they have nothing to be ashamed of. We all have problems.
  • Talk about feelings you have in common. Talk about the importance of your relationship.
  • Say you are not alone. Tell them many people have reached the same point where they are now, then turned around and gotten back on track. They can do it, too. Somewhere, there is someone waiting to help them find their way back.
  • Remind them that sometimes our problems seem insurmountable over time.
  • Discuss how life takes courage. Tell them they have more strength than they give themself credit for. They must give themself every opportunity to make their life what they want it to be. 
  • Tell them you will find someone to help—a friend, loved one, doctor, hospital. Contact the appropriate person, and then go with the person as support.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call or text 988 any time, any day. Or go online to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Resources

Families for Depression Awareness
Helps families recognize and cope with depressive disorders to ease pain and prevent suicides

Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Prevention support, training and resources to assist organizations and individuals

Yellow Ribbon International Suicide Prevention Program
Prevention and crisis information for all ages

By Paula Hartman Cohen

Summary

If someone you care about is thinking about suicide:

  • Take all threats seriously.
  • Get immediate expert help.
  • Help the person get to a safe place.

Every year in the U.S., there are substantially more suicide attempts than actual completed suicides. But for those that happen, friends, co-workers and loved ones often are left shocked and guilt-ridden for not noticing the danger signs for suicide before it was too late.
 
If we keep our eyes and ears open, we might be able to spot trouble before it progresses to a desperate point. Don’t let hindsight be the only way you spot a loved one’s problem. Learn the warning signs of suicide today:

1. A person thinking about suicide may talk of despair and hopelessness.

Depression—the number one cause of suicide—is related to a sense of loss and hopelessness. This serious but treatable mental health condition can be caused by many things, including a chemical imbalance in the brain or a trauma.

Depression, combined with traumatic life events, such as losing a job, home, pet or a loved one, or being the target of bullying, can make people feel hopeless. When a person has no support system—no parents, no partner, no friends—they lose hope that anything in life will change for the better. 

Listen for talk about too many bad things piling up, or some particular situation being “the last straw.” Someone considering suicide may feel helpless, no longer in charge of their own life.

They may be looking at the world from a narrow point of view and see no way out. The end of life may seem like an antidote to their own emotional or physical pain, or that of loved ones.

2. They may appear to be preparing for departure.

Your teen starts giving away their treasured clothes or jewelry. A co-worker decides to train a colleague to do their job. A friend calls you late at night to apologize for a rift that occurred years ago.

Be on alert if, all of a sudden, someone you know starts tying up loose ends, or giving you gifts that they “always wanted to give you.” Long-belated apologies or too many compliments may be your friend’s way of leaving an emotional gift behind. That special attention could be goodbye disguised as generosity.

3. They might talk or joke about different methods to complete suicide.

Take all talk of suicide seriously, even if it is couched in a joke. Pay attention. Is this behavior out of character? Is it something new? Is this person dealing with many difficulties? Rely on your radar.

Who is at risk?

We all have problems at different times in our lives, but everyone does not attempt suicide, even when problems are serious. Certain situations and environments seem to go hand-in-hand with a person’s wish to end their life. Here are some of the biggest risk factors: 

  • Depression, substance use or a combination of the two. More than 90% of people who die by suicide have these risk factors.
  • The early stages of recovery from depression. Sometimes a person in recovery is at higher risk of suicide than they might have been prior to treatment. Recovery is a slow process that does not always move in a linear fashion. They may take one step forward, two steps back, and then feel like they failed their last chance at peace and happiness. A person in recovery needs a great deal of support.
  • Prior attempts at suicide. More than 10 times as many people attempt suicide as die by it. Most people who die by suicide have attempted it before. 
  • Living in a family with substance use, domestic abuse and/or poor mental health.
  • The suicide of a family member or someone a person loves or admires, such as a favorite entertainer, teacher or friend.  
  • Guns available in the home. More than half of suicides involve firearms.
  • Poor support structure. Without the support of a circle of friends, family, spiritual community or friendly co-workers, anyone can easily fall through the cracks in a crisis.
  • Living in a high-incidence environment. Some cities and states have higher suicide rates than others.

What can you do or say?

  • Talk to your loved one in a warm, nonjudgmental way. Say you care, and want to help. Do everything you can to reduce any embarrassment they might feel over what they are going through. Tell them they have nothing to be ashamed of. We all have problems.
  • Talk about feelings you have in common. Talk about the importance of your relationship.
  • Say you are not alone. Tell them many people have reached the same point where they are now, then turned around and gotten back on track. They can do it, too. Somewhere, there is someone waiting to help them find their way back.
  • Remind them that sometimes our problems seem insurmountable over time.
  • Discuss how life takes courage. Tell them they have more strength than they give themself credit for. They must give themself every opportunity to make their life what they want it to be. 
  • Tell them you will find someone to help—a friend, loved one, doctor, hospital. Contact the appropriate person, and then go with the person as support.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call or text 988 any time, any day. Or go online to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Resources

Families for Depression Awareness
Helps families recognize and cope with depressive disorders to ease pain and prevent suicides

Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Prevention support, training and resources to assist organizations and individuals

Yellow Ribbon International Suicide Prevention Program
Prevention and crisis information for all ages

By Paula Hartman Cohen

Summary

If someone you care about is thinking about suicide:

  • Take all threats seriously.
  • Get immediate expert help.
  • Help the person get to a safe place.

Every year in the U.S., there are substantially more suicide attempts than actual completed suicides. But for those that happen, friends, co-workers and loved ones often are left shocked and guilt-ridden for not noticing the danger signs for suicide before it was too late.
 
If we keep our eyes and ears open, we might be able to spot trouble before it progresses to a desperate point. Don’t let hindsight be the only way you spot a loved one’s problem. Learn the warning signs of suicide today:

1. A person thinking about suicide may talk of despair and hopelessness.

Depression—the number one cause of suicide—is related to a sense of loss and hopelessness. This serious but treatable mental health condition can be caused by many things, including a chemical imbalance in the brain or a trauma.

Depression, combined with traumatic life events, such as losing a job, home, pet or a loved one, or being the target of bullying, can make people feel hopeless. When a person has no support system—no parents, no partner, no friends—they lose hope that anything in life will change for the better. 

Listen for talk about too many bad things piling up, or some particular situation being “the last straw.” Someone considering suicide may feel helpless, no longer in charge of their own life.

They may be looking at the world from a narrow point of view and see no way out. The end of life may seem like an antidote to their own emotional or physical pain, or that of loved ones.

2. They may appear to be preparing for departure.

Your teen starts giving away their treasured clothes or jewelry. A co-worker decides to train a colleague to do their job. A friend calls you late at night to apologize for a rift that occurred years ago.

Be on alert if, all of a sudden, someone you know starts tying up loose ends, or giving you gifts that they “always wanted to give you.” Long-belated apologies or too many compliments may be your friend’s way of leaving an emotional gift behind. That special attention could be goodbye disguised as generosity.

3. They might talk or joke about different methods to complete suicide.

Take all talk of suicide seriously, even if it is couched in a joke. Pay attention. Is this behavior out of character? Is it something new? Is this person dealing with many difficulties? Rely on your radar.

Who is at risk?

We all have problems at different times in our lives, but everyone does not attempt suicide, even when problems are serious. Certain situations and environments seem to go hand-in-hand with a person’s wish to end their life. Here are some of the biggest risk factors: 

  • Depression, substance use or a combination of the two. More than 90% of people who die by suicide have these risk factors.
  • The early stages of recovery from depression. Sometimes a person in recovery is at higher risk of suicide than they might have been prior to treatment. Recovery is a slow process that does not always move in a linear fashion. They may take one step forward, two steps back, and then feel like they failed their last chance at peace and happiness. A person in recovery needs a great deal of support.
  • Prior attempts at suicide. More than 10 times as many people attempt suicide as die by it. Most people who die by suicide have attempted it before. 
  • Living in a family with substance use, domestic abuse and/or poor mental health.
  • The suicide of a family member or someone a person loves or admires, such as a favorite entertainer, teacher or friend.  
  • Guns available in the home. More than half of suicides involve firearms.
  • Poor support structure. Without the support of a circle of friends, family, spiritual community or friendly co-workers, anyone can easily fall through the cracks in a crisis.
  • Living in a high-incidence environment. Some cities and states have higher suicide rates than others.

What can you do or say?

  • Talk to your loved one in a warm, nonjudgmental way. Say you care, and want to help. Do everything you can to reduce any embarrassment they might feel over what they are going through. Tell them they have nothing to be ashamed of. We all have problems.
  • Talk about feelings you have in common. Talk about the importance of your relationship.
  • Say you are not alone. Tell them many people have reached the same point where they are now, then turned around and gotten back on track. They can do it, too. Somewhere, there is someone waiting to help them find their way back.
  • Remind them that sometimes our problems seem insurmountable over time.
  • Discuss how life takes courage. Tell them they have more strength than they give themself credit for. They must give themself every opportunity to make their life what they want it to be. 
  • Tell them you will find someone to help—a friend, loved one, doctor, hospital. Contact the appropriate person, and then go with the person as support.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call or text 988 any time, any day. Or go online to 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

Resources

Families for Depression Awareness
Helps families recognize and cope with depressive disorders to ease pain and prevent suicides

Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Prevention support, training and resources to assist organizations and individuals

Yellow Ribbon International Suicide Prevention Program
Prevention and crisis information for all ages

By Paula Hartman Cohen

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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