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Warning Signs of Suicide

When someone commits suicide, family and friends are often left wondering “why”. Many ask the question of “What did I miss?” or “What could I have done to prevent them from committing suicide?” While no one can prevent all suicides or know all of the factors that lead a person to commit suicide, there are warning signs that can help you know when to intervene. The list below is not meant to be a definitive list, but instead is meant to be a tool to help you help those you love.

Warning signs that may indicate a person is at risk for suicide

  • Depression – People that commit suicide often have a history of depression. Many have been struggling with depression for an extended period of time. (link to other pages)
  • Expressions of hopelessness – People that commit suicide often loose hope. They frequently verbalize things such as:
    • “I don’t see the point.”
    • “Everyone would be better off without me.”
    • “I’m tired of trying.”
    • “I wish that I would not wake up.”
    • “I wish that I were dead.”
    • “I feel trapped.”
    • “The pain is too much.”
  • Long period of hopelessness followed by a sudden lifting of mood. –When someone has made the decision to commit suicide they may present a picture that everything is going to be OK. Many people mistake the sudden lifting of mood as a positive sign, when in fact it can indicate that a suicide attempt is imminent.  
  • Talking about suicide – People that commit suicide often talk about suicide prior to committing the suicide.
  • Recent Crisis – Many people that commit suicide have some kind of triggering event that overwhelms their ability to cope. Some of the most common stressors include:
    • Recent breakup of a relationship or divorce
    • Recent job loss
    • Significant financial stressors
    • Recent legal issues with potential for significant life consequences
  • Saying Goodbye – Many people that commit suicide start calling people, writing letters, or visiting people in order to say goodbye.
  • Giving things away – People that commit suicide often give away their possessions or make sure that their affairs are in order.
  • Recent drastic change in behavior – Sudden mood shifts or drastic changes in behavior can indicate an increased risk of suicide.
  • Prolonged anxiety – Long periods of unrelenting anxiety can lead to episodes of hopelessness, which increase suicide risks.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse – Drug and alcohol abuse tends to increase depression and impulsiveness. This increases the risk of suicide attempts.
  • Impulsiveness – A history of impulsiveness increases the likelihood that someone will act on suicidal thoughts during times of crisis.
  • Lack of coping skills – The less coping skills a person has, the more at risk they become to suicidal impulses.
  • History of suicide attempt – Many people that commit suicide have attempted suicide before. They may feel like they failed in their previous attempts and become more determined to follow through on their suicidal thoughts.
  • Expression of admiration for someone who committed suicide – A person that expresses admiration for another person (especially a public figure) who has committed suicide is at risk for suicidal impulses. They may describe the person as “brave” for succeeding in their suicide attempt.
  • Beginning to research suicide on the internet – Many people that are suicidal begin to research methods of committing suicide.
  • History of suicide in the family – A history of suicides within the family is a significant risk factor for people with suicidal thoughts.
  • Recent suicide by a close friend or family member – A recent suicide by someone close, can be a triggering event for a suicide attempt.
  • Recent death – A recent death or unresolved grief can be a triggering event for a suicide attempt.
  • Withdrawing from activities – Whenever someone begins to contemplate suicide, they often begin to withdraw from others and the activities in which they are normally involved.
  • Chronic Illness or Chronic Pain – An inability to cope with chronic illness or chronic pain can lead to feelings of hopelessness. Some people begin to see suicide as their best option to cope with the pain.
  • PTSD – Individuals with unresolved trauma can become suicidal when the feelings around the past trauma are triggered.
  • Borderline personality disorder – Individuals with borderline personality tend to experience extreme emotions and can become impulsive during times of crisis. Suicide attempts may follow emotional crisis or stressful life events.
  • Aggressive behaviors – An increase in aggressive or threatening behaviors can indicate suicide risks. This is particularly true in volatile relationships where a person feels emotionally “wounded” by the breakup. This might be expressed in comments such as “I can’t live without you”, or “I won’t let you live without me.”
  • Development of a plan to commit suicide – The risk of suicide increases whenever someone begins to develop a plan. Immediate intervention may be required in order to prevent a suicide attempt. 
  • Additional Risk factors with Teenagers
    • School failures – Teenagers that are failing at school can become more at risk for suicide if they begin to lose hope. 
    • Bullying – Teenagers that get bullied may begin to feel desperate and trapped. Cyber-bullying can be especially difficult because they may begin to feel like there is no way to get away from the bullying, even at home. 
    • Sexual abuse – Teenagers that have been or are being sexually abused are at greater risk for suicide attempts.  
    • Physical abuse – Teenagers that feel trapped and desperate may act on their desire to “escape” by attempting suicide. 
    • Anger issues – Teenagers may express their anger through suicidal gestures or self-harm. 
    • Impulsive – The impulsivity of teenagers increases suicidal risks. Some teenagers may attempt suicide without any previous indications of problems. They have the thought and then impulsively act on the thought. 
    • Isolated at school or home – Teenagers that lack support are more at risk for suicide attempts.
    • Humiliation – Teenagers that feel humiliated may try to escape the humiliation by attempting suicide. Cyber-bullying, for example, can cause teenagers to feel publically humiliated by their peers. They may, as a result, begin to feel like the only escape is to “not be here”.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, there is hope. New Dimensions can help you develop the coping skills you need to face life’s challenges and overcome the problems that contribute to suicidal thoughts.


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Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

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