About 70 percent of people who commit suicide give some sort of verbal or nonverbal clue about their intention to end their life. That means you could be in a position to guide someone to get help before they commit the one action that can never be taken back.
While 30,000 Americans die each year due to suicide, more than 800,000 Americans attempt suicide. Although women attempt suicide three times as often as men, men are four times more likely to be successful in their attempt.
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 has persistent thoughts and has a definite plan. However you don’t have to know how serious a person is in order to help them.
Possible 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.
- Soon I won’t be a burden anymore.
- 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 their affairs in order (paying off debts, changing a will)
- Giving away their personal possessions
- Signs of planning a suicide, such as obtaining a weapon or writing a suicide note
Friends and family who are close to an individual are in the best position to spot 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 help from a therapist, psychiatrist, school counselor, or even telling their family doctor about their feelings. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) offers free and confidential support for people in distress as well as prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones.
Remember, depression is a treatable mental disorder, it’s not something you can “catch” or a sign of personal weakness. Your friend or loved one needs to know you’re there for them, that you care and you will support them no matter what.
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 someone who is trying to cope with depression on their own might turn to substances like alcohol or drugs to help ward away the depressive feelings. Others might eat more, watch television for hours on end, and not want to leave their home or even their bed. 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.
It’s important to realize that people who suffer from serious, clinical depression feel depressed for weeks or months on end. Someone who’s just having a particularly rough or stressful week (because of school or work demands, relationship problems, money issues, etc.) may not be suffering from clinical depression.