How do you know whether you, or someone else, is at risk for suicide; are there red flags? Although the answer is yes, the flags are not always bright red. Before looking at signs of suicide, there are two things to keep in mind.
The first is that many symptoms of major depression and bipolar disorder overlap with suicide warning signs. For example, if someone is experiencing mood swings, he or she may be depressed but not suicidal.
The same is true when someone thinks about suicide. Sometimes, a depressed person thinks about suicide because they feel awful. Dying would be a “relief” however, what they really desire is to feel better.
Second, the warning signals of suicide are not always apparent. Sometimes a person’s intention is obvious, but there are people who keep their feelings and ideas of suicide to themselves. Those who are secretive are often determined to follow through.
10 Behaviors That Signal Suicide Risk
If you are worried that a friend or family member is suicidal, immediately let someone close to that person (parent, sibling) know what you suspect and why. You can also, if you wish, tell the person at risk what you suspect and ask whether it is true.
- Noticeable mood swings: lower than low one day, cheery and hopeful the next.
- Expressions of wanting to die or be killed; statements such as, “I wish I was never born;” a fixation on violence, dying, and death.
- Isolating at home; withdrawing from society; discontinued socializing.
- An increased use of drugs or alcohol.
- Partaking in self-destructive behavior; increased risk taking (i.e., reckless driving).
- Getting affairs in order; giving belongings away; giving what sounds like a final goodbye to friends, family, or co-workers.
- Talk of feeling hopeless or trapped and not seeing a way out.
- Acquiring items that provide the means to take their own life (i.e., gun, accumulating pills).
- Changes in long time habits, sleeping or eating patterns; change of routine.
- Changes in personality; anxiety or agitation, especially in relation to other signs of suicide.
If You Are Feeling Suicidal
Suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts) is a symptom of depression and does not, alone, mean you are planning a suicide. It very temporarily relieves symptomsto think about leaving everything behind, even if you do not plan on doing so. If you're thinking about suicide or feel suicidal but are not in immediate danger of acting on it, do the following:
- Call or get with a good friend or family member, or contact a minister or other spiritual leader that you trust.
- Call a suicide crisis hotline (keep their phone number on your cell).
- Set up an appointment with a mental health professional or your doctor.
If you are presently suicidal (have the intention or feel out of control), or know someone who is:
- Call 911 or other emergency number right away.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and speak to a counselor (U.S. residents).