Suicide Warning Signs

Young woman looking down

What To Watch For:

  • A major change in sleep or eating patterns
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Major personality changes – becomes impulsive, rebellious or violent
  • Violent or rebellious actions
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Less interest in school – grades, activities, or stops going altogether
  • Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating
  • Unusual neglect of personal appearance
  • Negative comments about themselves
  • Talking about suicide; expressing suicidal thoughts or intentions
  • Giving away important possessions; making final arrangements
  • Sudden cheerfulness after a prolonged depression
  • Concrete plans to commit suicide are a definite warning sign! If they have come this far, they will very likely go through with it! Don’t leave them alone!

These warning signs are only hints. Some people considering suicide may show none of these signs; in other cases, a person who is coping well may exhibit one or more. The only way to know for sure is to talk to the individual. Don’t be afraid to ask them directly if they have been considering suicide.

What To Do:

  • Listen. Encourage them to talk about it – don’t ignore the problem. Show them that you care. Genuine concern goes a long way to reassuring a person in despair.
  • Assure them that they aren’t alone and that they can get help. Let them know they have someone to turn to. Don’t leave them alone.
  • Reassure them of God’s unfailing love and forgiveness.
  • Find out how serious their intentions are – do they have a plan?
  • Don’t tell them how lucky they are, or how they shouldn’t be feeling so bad. This will only make them feel guilty or angry.
  • Don’t be judgmental. Take the problem seriously and be willing to talk.
  • Find ways to help decrease the pressure he or she feels.
  • Get help. Talk to your pastor, family doctor or psychologist. If these are not available, you can also try a local crisis or suicide prevention center.

(It is often advisable for the person trying to help to talk to someone as well. Dealing with a suicidal friend or relative is an emotionally stressful experience.)

What To Remember:

  • Suicidal thoughts are usually prompted by unbearable emotional pain. Many suicidal individuals feel that there is no other option available. Most would choose not to die if they could evaluate their situation from a dispassionate, objective point of view.
  • Suicidal thoughts are not an indication of mental illness. Most suicide attempts stem from depression, which can be either a reaction to stress or a clinical disorder or a combination of the two.
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