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Warning Signs

Definition: Suicide is the deliberate taking or ending of one's own life. It is often associated with a severe crisis that does not go away, that may worsen over time, or that may appear hopeless. Friends or loved ones in crisis may show signs that indicate that they are at risk of attempting or committing suicide.

Warning Signs:

People who are considering suicide often show signs of depression, anxiety, or some form of crisis in their overall self-esteem. Specific signs include:

  • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time.
  • Clinical depression - deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating - that doesn't go away or that continues to get worse.
  • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time.
  • Neglecting personal welfare; deteriorating physical appearance.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about.
  • Frequent and dramatic mood changes.
  • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame.
  • Feelings of failure or decreased performance.

People who are considering suicide:

  • Feel hopeless, helpless, worthless.
  • Feel that life is not worth living or see no reason for living.
  • Have no sense of a life purpose.
  • Have feelings of desperation, and say that there's no solution to their problems.
  • Talk about feeling trapped - like there is no way out of a situation.

People who are thinking about ending their lives are often preoccupied with death or suicide. They may:

  • Talk of a suicide plan or making a serious attempt.
  • Frequently talk or think about death, or say things like "It would be better if I wasn't here", or "I want out".
  • Talk, write, or draw pictures about death, dying, or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person.
  • Talk about suicide in a vague or indirect way, saying things like: "I'm going away on a real long trip"; "You don't have to worry about me anymore"; "I just want to go to sleep and never wake up"; or "Don't worry if you don't see me for a while".

A person who is contemplating ending their life may show behavior that looks as though he or she is "getting ready", and do things like:

  • Give away prized possessions.
  • Put affairs in order, tie up loose ends, and/or make out a will.
  • Seek access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself.
  • Call or visit family and/or friends as if to say goodbye.

People who are considering suicide may show dramatic changes in behavior, such as:

  • Performing poorly at work or school.
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities - seemingly without thinking.
  • Looking as though one has a "death wish" such as tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, or driving fast or running red lights.
  • Taking unnecessary risks; behaving in a reckless and/or impulsive manner.
  • Show violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge.
  • Show a sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy, as if suddenly everything is okay.

People who are considering suicide may be experiencing severe loss or potential future loss that may intensify suicidal thoughts, such as:

  • Real or potential loss or break-up of marriage or important relationship.
  • Combat-related losses.
  • Loss of one's health.
  • Loss of job, home, money, status, self-esteem, personal security.
  • Being faced with a situation of humiliation or failure, such as loss of status or position due to injury or impending disciplinary actions.

Other warning signs of suicide risk may include:

  • Increasing tobacco, alcohol or drug use.
  • Signs of self-inflicted injuries, such as cuts, burns, or head banging.
  • May be unwilling to "connect" with potential helpers, i.e., counselor, chaplain, etc.