Suicide—Warning Signs

Suicide does not discriminate and can affect anyone regardless of age, race, or gender.  It is now one of the top leading causes of death in the United States. Some risk factors can make someone vulnerable to suicide.  Some of these situations and conditions can include:

  • Mental illness
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Living with a terminal illness
  • Suffering from a traumatic brain injury
  • Stressful or traumatic situations
  • Past suicide attempts or having a family history of suicide

There are often warning signs of suicide that can be easily recognized or missed but if you notice any of these, then you can try some methods of suicide prevention.  You can talk to them, encourage them to seek help, be there for them, and more.

Some of the warning signs that might be recognizable can include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or talking about dying
  • Mentioning strong feelings of shame and guilt
  • Talking about feeling, hopeless, having no way out of problems, feeling empty.
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Talking about how others would be better off without them or not having a reason to live.
  • Saying goodbye to family and friends
  • Wrapping up loose ends and giving away personal items.

There are also less obvious warning signs of suicide, which can include:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns—this can be a sign of depression but can also be a sign of suicidal behavior. When someone is feeling suicidal, they may struggle to get out of bed or sleep more but sometimes they sleep less and have insomnia.
  • Unusual changes in behavior—this is a common occurrence for someone who is suicidal. It is often overlooked as it may not seem related to hopelessness or depression.  For example, someone that is kind may suddenly become aggressive and angry.
  • Accessing lethal means—depending on the situation, this could be an obvious sign, such as someone telling you they bought a gun and it is something they might never have done before. It is also a warning sign that can be hidden, such as someone may start to stockpile pills without someone noticing.
  • Physical pain—this and discomfort are often overlooked as signs of potential suicide. If you know of anyone that often complains of any type of pain such as headaches or general pain, look for other signs of suicide or depression.  If they have no explanation for the pain you should also be concerned.
  • Emotional distance—when someone is feeling suicidal, they may become detached from life in general and other activities and people.

If you feel someone may be suicidal, there are other ways to do suicide prevention than those mentioned above.  If someone is threatening suicide or talking about it, you should get emergency help.  Do not leave them alone.  If you do talk to them, do it without judging.  Be compassionate.


Suicide is a growing problem and a leading cause of death.  If you should notice any of these signs, talk to them and let them know they are not alone.  Suggest that they talk to a professional but mainly be there and listen.

Bio – Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide is dedicated to increasing awareness, saving lives and reducing the stigma of suicide through specialized training programs and resources that empower teens, parents and educational leaders with the skills needed to help youth build a life of resiliency.

SPTS expert program staff are available to meet your educational and professional development needs with a comprehensive catalog of dynamic workshops and training programs for schools, community groups, professional conferences and parents.  Browse our catalog or consult with our office staff for the presentation that best fits your suicide prevention needs.

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By Cary Grant

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