While there are some situations in which no warning signs are present prior to a suicide attempt or suicide death, most often an individual does exhibit some clues or warning signs that they are struggling with suicidal ideation. As such, it is important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide so that appropriate help can be given.
Warning Signs of Immediate Risk:
- Threatening to hurt or kill self, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill self
- Looking for ways to kill self by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary
If these warning signs are noted, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. 988 is available via call, text or chat.
Additional Warning Signs:
- Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
- No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
- Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
- Withdrawal from friends, family and society
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Dramatic mood changes
The easiest way to find out if someone is in crisis is to just ask. But even someone who appears happy on the outside could be experiencing a crisis.
How can I help?
- Just ask: It’s ok to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Asking in this direct, non-judgmental manner can open the door for effective conversation.
- Keep them safe: If they are thinking about suicide, ask if they’ve though about how they would do it.
- Help them connect: Rally support. Contact family, friends, teachers, coaches, church members and help them build a network. Share the three-digit number: 988 is available via call, text, or chat.
- Listen: Don’t dismiss or judge. You don’t have to offer advice. Just listen.
- Be there: Be there physically or by phone. Don’t commit to anything you’re not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well.
- Follow up: Check in on a regular basis. Continue to show you care. Have a plan in place if you can’t reach them.