If you are in crisis and need to speak with someone now, call or text 988.

Know Suicide Warning Signs and Risk Factors

Understanding the signs and risk factors associated with suicide enables individuals to recognize when someone may be at risk. This knowledge can empower people to intervene and provide support before a crisis occurs.

Warning Signs

Warning signs of suicide are observable behaviors, actions, or expressions that may indicate that someone is at risk of attempting or thinking about suicide.

  • Talking about suicide, expressing thoughts like “I want to kill myself” or “I wish I were dead”
  • Acquiring means to take one’s own life, like buying a gun or stockpiling pills
  • Withdrawing from social contact and desiring isolation
  • Experiencing mood swings, going from emotional highs to deep discouragement
  • Showing fixation on death, dying, or violence
  • Expressing feelings of being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped or hopeless in a situation
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse or reckless driving
  • Giving away possessions or organizing affairs without an apparent reason
  • Saying goodbye to people as if it’s the final farewell
  • Displaying personality changes, severe anxiety, or agitation

Risk Factors

Risk factors for suicide are characteristics or circumstances that increase an individual’s likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts or engaging in suicidal behaviors. Having risk factors does not necessarily mean a person will attempt suicide.

  • Mental Health Issues: Most people who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
  • Previous Suicide Attempts: A history of previous suicide attempts is a significant risk factor for future attempts.
  • Family History: A family history of suicide or mental health issues can increase an individual’s risk.
  • Substance Abuse: Alcohol or drug abuse increases the risk of suicide.
  • Access to Lethal Means: Easy access to lethal methods, such as firearms, can increase the likelihood of suicide.
  • Chronic Illness or Pain: Chronic physical or emotional pain can contribute to suicidal thoughts.
  • Isolation: Social isolation and a lack of support can increase vulnerability.
  • Recent Loss or Trauma: Experiencing recent losses, such as the death of a loved one or a job loss, can be risk factors.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsive behavior or a history of impulsive acts increases risk.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to die by suicide, while women are more likely to attempt suicide.

Helping Someone Who is Suicidal: What You Can Do

You can help someone who is thinking of suicide, and your support can make a significant difference in their life. Here are some steps to assist someone who may be contemplating suicide:

  • Take It Seriously: If someone confides in you about their suicidal thoughts or intentions, take it seriously. Avoid minimizing their feelings or telling them to “snap out of it.”
  • Listen Non-Judgmentally: Create a safe and non-judgmental space for them to talk about their feelings. Let them express their thoughts and emotions without criticism or judgment.
  • Show Empathy and Compassion: Let the person know that you care about their well-being. Show empathy and understanding by saying things like, “I’m here for you,” or “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way.”
  • Ask Directly About Suicide: While it may be uncomfortable, ask the person directly if they are thinking about suicide. This can open up an honest conversation and allow them to express their feelings.
  • Keep Them Safe: If the person has a plan and access to means (e.g., pills, firearms) for suicide, try to remove or restrict access to those means. This can be a crucial step in preventing a suicide attempt.
  • Encourage Professional Help: Encourage the person to seek professional help from a mental health therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. Offer to help them find resources and make appointments.
  • Offer to Accompany Them: If they are willing, offer to accompany them to their appointments or crisis helplines. Sometimes, the presence of a supportive person can make it easier for them to seek help.
  • Stay Connected: Keep in touch with the person regularly, even if it’s just a text or a quick check-in. Let them know you care about their well-being.
  • Involve Trusted Individuals: If you’re concerned about their safety, involve other trusted friends or family members who can provide support and assistance.
  • Don’t Promise Secrecy: While you should respect their privacy, do not promise to keep their suicidal thoughts a secret if they are in immediate danger. Their safety should be the top priority.
  • Know Crisis Helplines: Be aware of crisis helplines and hotlines in your area, such as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (dial 988 for support) or Crisis Text Line (Text SAVE to 741-741). Encourage the person to call these resources if they need immediate help.