What are the warning signs of suicide?

by Lisa Conway

This is an important question, as depression and anxiety levels in the U.S. are elevated from multiple stressors. Currently, an American dies from suicide every 12 minutes.  It is the second leading cause of death for youth and the 10th leading cause of death overall for adults. 

Suicide risk factors include depression, prior suicide attempts, substance abuse, weapons in the home, physical illness or a family history of suicide.  Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that while men are more likely to die by suicide, more women will make the attempt.

There is some good news: 9 in 10 people who attempt suicide—do not ultimately die by suicide. And everyone has a role to play in prevention.

If you are feeling suicidal, talk with a therapist, a support group or your faith leader.  All can provide perspective and a sense of hope, meaning and purpose. Just talking with someone can help. 

Develop a personal safety plan to help manage a crisis: List your personal warning signs, determine your best coping strategies, seek out supportive people, contact a mental health professional and ensure that your environment is safe.

Here are the warning signs of a person at risk for suicide: 

  • talking about wanting to die or suicide
  • feelings of hopelessness/helplessness
  • feelings of entrapment or being a burden
  • increased alcohol or drug use
  • withdrawing or isolating
  • giving away belongings
  • extreme mood swings

If someone you know exhibits warning signs, talk with them and ask if they are thinking about harming themselves. Listen without judging and show you care. If they are actively planning suicide, remove any objects that could be used in an attempt. Lastly, call 911 if you feel the person is in imminent danger.

If you –or someone that you know– need help with feelings of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).  Help is only a phone call away.