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Warning Signs that a Person is Suicidal

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

80% of people who contemplate suicide give out signs that they are thinking about it. Notify the family, caregiver and/or doctor if appropriate. The following are some indications that a person may commit this act:

  • A preoccupation with and/or writing about death or suicide

  • Making final arrangements and giving away special possessions

  • Avoiding commitments

  • Sudden loss of interest in something that was once quite important

  • Insomnia or sudden changes in sleep or eating patterns

  • Dependence on alcohol and/or drugs

  • Deep depression

  • A recently experienced loss

  • A sudden upturn in energy following a depression. Committing suicide takes energy, which people lack when they are severely depressed.

  • When a Person Threatens Suicide or Has Made an Attempt

Regard these signs as a serious cry for help.
  • Assess the suicidal potential. For example has the person threatened or made attempts at suicide before? What happened? At the time of the threat, were there unusual circumstances or stress in this person’s life? Was the threat used to arouse sympathy from you or others?

  • Listen to the person as he/she may find you as the easiest person or the only person to talk with. Show the person you care about him/her. Listen without making judgements or telling the person how to feel. Do not use statements such as, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “You don’t know how lucky you are.”

  • Take the person seriously and show this when you speak with him/her. Avoid arguing.

  • Talk to the person about suicide. He/she should discuss what suicide means and its finality. By talking the situation through and offering a caring place to discuss the situation you may sometimes pull the person through the crisis. Use a soft voice, speak slowly, and keep responses short and simple.

  • Stay at a distance if the person is agitated because he/she may fear any sudden movement or being cornered.

  • You may have to compromise confidentiality in the interests of possibly saving a life.

  • Know emergency telephone numbers, such as emergency services, the police, the person’s physician, etc.

  • Accompany the person, or see if someone else who is close to the person will accompany him/her to the emergency room if it seems warranted in this situation.

  • Alert emergency services or hospital emergency room staff if you know of any previous suicide attempts; if there is plan for how the suicide will be carried out; and if you know what the plan is

A helpful resource: THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. By dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the call is routed to the nearest crisis center in our national network of more than 150 crisis centers. The Lifeline’s national network of local crisis centers, provides crisis counseling and mental health referrals day and night.

Aftermath of a Suicide:

When a loved one dies by suicide, family and friends are devastated. Surviving family and friends can experience feelings of depression, grief, helplessness, spiritual distress, anger, guilt, hopelessness, fatigue, apathy, negativism, and anxiety. Assist those grieving for a loved one to grieve openly, to attend a support group such as a local chapter of the Compassionate Friends and to develop spiritual resources to help them deal with their loss.

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