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Warning Signs of Suicide and What You Can Do

If you think a person could be suicidal, ask, "Have you thought about suicide?" If they say "yes," they may already have a plan for how and when they will attempt it. Find out as much as you can. The more detailed the plan, and the easier it is to carry out, the more danger the person is in right now.

Young  woman sitting by window looking sad.

Know the warning signs

The warning signs for suicide include:

  • Threats or talk of suicide

  • Sense of hopelessness

  • Buying a gun or other weapon

  • Statements such as "Soon, I won't be a problem" or "Nothing matters"

  • Giving away items they own, making out a will, or planning their funeral

  • Suddenly being happy or calm after being depressed

Factors that put a person at a higher risk of attempting suicide include:

  • A history of suicide in the person's family

  • Previous suicide attempts

  • Alcohol and drug use, along with impulsive behaviors

  • Having a diagnose mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder

  • History of trauma or abuse including bullying

  • Significant losses such as a divorce, death of a loved one, financial problems, or legal problems

  • Having access to a lethal weapon (for example firearms in the home)

  • Chronic physical illnesses, including chronic pain

  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others

Get help

Don't try to handle this alone. You can be the most help by getting the person to a trained professional. Suicidal thinking may be a sign of depression, a serious but treatable illness.

In an emergency—call 911

Don't leave the person alone. Anyone who is at imminent risk of suicide needs psychiatric services right away. The person must be continuously monitored, and never left out of sight. Call 911 or a 24-hour suicide crisis hotline. It can be found in the white pages of your phone book under "Suicide." You can also take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room (ER).

Don't keep it a secret and don't wait

Call a mental health clinic or a licensed mental health professional in your area right away: a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist, psychiatric or licensed clinical social worker, marriage and family counselor, or clergy. Tell them you need help for a person who is thinking about suicide.

Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK)

    www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

  • National Suicide Hotline

    800-784-2433 (800-SUICIDE)

  • National Institute of Mental Health

    866-615-6464

    www.nimh.nih.gov

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness

    800-950-6264

    www.nami.org

  • Mental Health America

    800-969-6642

    www.nmha.org

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.