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Recognizing Suicidal Intent - Warning Signs for Suicide - What To Do

What are warning signs for suicide?

Warning signs are changes in a person’s behaviors, feelings and beliefs about oneself that are out of character for that individual and place them at risk for suicide. How (or even if) individuals display any warning signs is likely to be different from individual to individual. However, there are common traits that have been observed (either before or after the fact) in individuals who are contemplating suicide. Individuals who are displaying these warning signs should be asked directly if they are thinking of hurting or killing themselves and should be referred to a qualified physician or mental health practitioner for a full assessment.

Warning Signs for Suicide:  Cause for Immediate Action

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself or talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill onseself by seeking access to firearms, pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide

Direct Statements of Suicidal Intent:  Cause for Immediate Action

  • “I’m going to end it all.”
  • “I wish I were dead.”
  • “I’ve decided to kill myself.”

Less Direct Statements of Suicidal Intent:  Cause for Immediate Action

  • “Everyone would be better off without me.”
  • “Pretty soon you won’t have to worry about me.”
  • “Who cares if I am dead anyway?”

Take Immediate Action:

  • Call 911, or an ambulance, or get them to the emergency room
  • Do not leave the person unattended, even briefly

Warning Signs for Suicide:  Cause for Concern

  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrollable anger or seeking revenge
  • Feeling trapped—like there’s no way out
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Feeling anxious or agitated; being unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time
  • Sudden improvement in mood after being down or withdrawn
  • Giving away favorite possessions

Connect with Help (Additional Supports) in the Community:

  • Community mental health center
  • Primary care provider
  • School nurse/guidance counselor
  • Pastoral counselor
  • Other qualified professionals
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

This list of warning signs is promoted by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org).