Warning Signs

To Reduce the Risk of Suicide, Know the Signs

The best way to prevent suicide is through education. Most suicides are related to depression, and, since we cannot always prevent depression (although we can frequently treat it successfully), we can learn to recognize and respond to cries for help from people who feel hopeless and helpless.

Verbal Cues

Direct messages include statements such as “I am going to commit suicide,” or “I don’t want to live any more.” Indirect messages include statements such as “Life isn’t worth living,” “I want to go to sleep and never wake up,” “Soon it won’t matter anymore,” and “Do you think suicide is wrong?” These are subtler ways that people express their pain and hopelessness, but they just as surely express a desire to die.

Behavioral Cues

Each of the following behaviors by itself may not signal suicidal thinking or depression, but if several are present, there could be cause for serious concern.

  • Depression, moodiness, sadness, or lack of energy
  • Talking directly or indirectly about dying or committing suicide
  • Changes in sleeping habits (too much, too little)
  • Changes in eating habits (sudden weight gain, weight loss)
  • Discouragement about the future, self-criticism
  • Recent lack of concern about physical appearance, hygiene
  • Withdrawal from social contacts or communication difficulty
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Drop in school grades or work performance
  • Acquiring the means for suicide (guns, drugs, rope)
  • Making final arrangements, writing a will
  • Taking unusual risks
  • Increased drug or alcohol use
  • Preoccupation with death through poetry and/or artwork
  • Previous suicide attempts (80% of those who kill themselves have attempted it before)

Situational Cues

The following events frequently lead to crisis. For some people, internal and external resources are present in sufficient amounts to cope. For others, intense feelings coupled with a lack of external resources result in serious emotional crisis.

  • End of a serious relationship
  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Loss of a job
  • Financial difficulties
  • Moving to a new location
  • Isolation