According to government data, 70% of people who commit suicide tell someone about their plans, or give some other type of warning signs. Over 30,000 Americans die each year due to suicide, but over 800,000 Americans attempt suicide. While women attempt suicide three times more than men, men are nearly four times more likely to be successful.
You may be in a position to help someone get help before they take the one action that cannot be taken back.
Warning signs of suicide are not difficult to spot, but professionals differentiate between someone who simply has a passing thought of suicide or ending his or her own life, and someone who is more serious and has a definite plan. You don’t have to know how serious a person is in order to help them, though.
Friends and family who are close to an individual are in the best position to spot these warning signs. Often times people feel helpless in dealing with someone who is depressed or suicidal. Usually it is helpful to encourage the person to seek professional mental health help from a therapist, psychiatrist, school counselor, or even telling their family doctor about their feelings. Your friend or loved one needs to know you’re there for them, that you care and you will support them no matter what. Remember, depression is a treatable mental disorder, it’s not something you can “catch” or a sign of personal weakness.
Some Suicide Warning Signs
Have you ever heard someone say two or more of the following?
- Life isn’t worth living
- My family (or friends or girlfriend/boyfriend) would be better off without me
- Next time I’ll take enough pills to do the job right
- Take my prized collection or valuables — I don’t need this stuff anymore
- Don’t worry, I won’t be around to deal with that
- You’ll be sorry when I’m gone
- I won’t be in your way much longer
- I just can’t deal with everything — life’s too hard
- I won’t be a burden much longer
- Nobody understands me — nobody feels the way I do
- There’s nothing I can do to make it better
- I’d be better off dead
- I feel like there is no way out
- You’d be better off without me
Have you noticed them doing one or more of the following activities?
- Getting affairs in order (paying off debts, changing a will)
- Giving away articles of either personal or monetary value
- Signs of planning a suicide such as obtaining a weapon or writing a suicide note
Suicide is one of the most serious symptoms of someone who is suffering from severe depression. Common signs of depression include:
- Depressed or sad mood (e.g., feeling “blue” or “down in the dumps”)
- A change in the person’s sleeping patterns (e.g., sleeping too much or too little, or having difficulty sleeping the night through)
- A significant change in the person’s weight or appetite
- Speaking and/or moving with unusual speed or slowness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities (e.g., hobbies, outdoor activities, hanging around with friends)
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, slowed thinking or indecisiveness
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or guilt
- Thoughts of death, suicide, or wishes to be dead
Sometimes somebody who is trying to cope with depression on their own will be seen turning to things like alcohol or drugs to help ward away the depressive feelings. Others might eat more, watch television for hours on end in bed, and not want to leave their house, apartment or dorm room. Sometimes a person who is depressed may stop caring about their physical appearance on a regular basis, or whether they shower or brush their teeth.
Typically, people who suffer from serious, clinical depression feel depressed for weeks or months on end, so someone who’s just having a particularly rough or stressful week (because of school demands, relationship issues, work issues, etc.) may not be suffering from clinical depression.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 May 2009
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Grohol, J. (2007). Common Signs of Someone Who May be Suicidal. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2007/10/08/common-signs-of-someone-who-may-be-suicidal/