What are the warning signs of suicide?

Suicide is the voluntary and intentional act of taking of one’s life. While some suicides may occur without any warning signs, most people who are suicidal do give warnings, such as:

  • Increasing their alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Taking unnecessary risks and impulsivity
  • Threatening suicide and/or expressing a strong wish to die
  • Exhibiting rage and/or anger
  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Fascinating over or preoccupying oneself with death
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Isolating or withdrawing oneself
  • Displaying mood swings
  • Telling loved ones goodbye
  • Setting one's affairs in order
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions
  • Referring to death via poetry, writings and drawings
  • Exhibiting dramatic changes in personality or appearance
  • Changing eating or sleeping patterns
  • Declining in performance

If you or someone you know shows warning signs for suicide, please seek help.

Suicidal individuals may exhibit a variety of behaviors (listed below). Verbal threats of suicide should always be taken seriously. It is a common misconception that individuals who talk about suicide do not try to take their own lives. The followings are warning signs of potential suicide:
  • withdrawal -- overwhelming urge to be alone
  • moodiness -- extreme high mood one day followed by extreme low mood or inexplicable calm the next day
  • life crisis or trauma -- experience of a major life-changing event (e.g., death of a loved one or serious illness) may trigger suicidal thoughts
  • personality change -- drastic change in personality, energy level, or appearance
  • threat -- verbalized suicidal intentions always to be taken seriously
  • gift giving -- cherished belongings given to loved ones
  • depression -- feelings of sadness accompanied by decreased capacity to function at home, work or socially
  • risk taking -- unsafe sex practices or excessive speeding

People may not know they are depressed. They usually know they don't feel good, and they can feel suicidal. Signs and symptoms that may accompany suicidal feelings include: talking about feeling suicidal or wanting to die; feeling hopeless that nothing will ever change or get better; feeling helpless, that nothing one does makes any difference; feeling like a burden to family and friends; abusing alcohol or drugs; putting affairs in order (e.g., organizing finances or giving away possessions to prepare for one’s death); writing a suicide note; and putting oneself in harm’s way or in situations where there is a danger of being killed. Thoughts of suicide should be taken very seriously. If you or someone you know is suicidal, go to the nearest Emergency Room for a complete evaluation.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline lists these signs that someone is at risk:
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, or society
  • Feeling anxious or agitated, being unable to sleep, or sleeping all the time
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms (guns), pills, or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger -- or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, call and get help.
Bob Livingstone
Marriage & Family Therapy

The warning signs of suicide are:

  • Disinterest in favorite extracurricular activities
  • Problems at work and losing interest in a job
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol and drug (illegal and legal drugs) use
  • Behavioral problems
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Sleep changes
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Begins to neglect hygiene and other matters of personal appearance
  • Emotional distress brings on physical complaints (aches, fatigues, migraines)
  • Hard time concentrating and paying attention
  • Declining grades in school
  • Loss of interest in schoolwork
  • Risk taking behaviors
  • Complains more frequently of boredom
  • Does not respond as before to praise

Not all of these teen suicide warning signs will be present in cases of possible teen suicide. There are many cases in which a good student commits suicide. It is important to watch for two or three signs as indications of depression, or even teen suicidal thoughts.

Teen suicide warning signs: indications of a suicide plan

Here are some of the indications of a suicide plan:

  • Actually says, “I’m thinking of committing suicide” or “I want to kill myself” or “I wish I could die.”
  • There are also verbal hints that could indicate suicidal thoughts or plans. These include such phrases as: “I want you to know something, in case something happens to me” or “I won’t trouble you anymore.”
  • Teenager begins giving away favorite belongings, or promising them to friends and family members.
  • Throws away important possessions.
  • Shows signs of extreme cheerfulness following periods of depression.
  • Creates suicide notes.
  • Expresses bizarre or unsettling thoughts on occasion.

Ask them if they are feeling suicidal. If they so no and you have difficulty believing them because they seem to have many depressive symptoms, make an appointment with a therapist. If you feel your child is eminently suicidal, call the police.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.