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Warning Signs of Suicide

Knowing the signs of suicide may help you prevent someone from successfully dying by suicide.

While knowing suicidal signs may be helpful, keep in mind that even if you make every attempt to help prevent a suicide, the person may still be successful in carrying out their plan to end their life. It is not your fault if this occurs. If a person is committed to ending their life, sometimes no intervention in the world can stop it.

The primary step in the prevention of suicide is the recognition of the many warning signs of suicide. If you suspect that a loved one is contemplating suicide, take the time to talk to them, tell them that you love and care for them, and that you’ve noticed a change in their behavior. In short, you are worried about them. Don’t be put off by an initial denial, as most people are uncomfortable and even embarrassed by their thoughts of suicide. Continue the conversation while downplaying such feelings of uncomfortableness.

Suicide is a serious, life-threatening issue and is not something that most people are equipped to deal with. In many cases, you cannot simply “talk someone out of” wanting to die by suicide without professional training. After talking to someone about suicide, encourage them to reach out to professional help or, if they’re not ready for such a step, even the national suicide telephone hotline (800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741).

Let them know you’re there to help — not to judge. And if need be, you’ll even help them research to find a therapist that takes the person’s health insurance, or help them find a provider that is compatible with their needs.

Warning Signs of Suicide

The warning signs of suicide include:

  • Withdrawal and isolation from family and peers
  • Use of alcohol and drugs
  • Decline in school performance
  • Increased irritability
  • Dramatic change in dress, activities or friends
  • Giving away of possessions
  • Discussion of suicide
  • Changes in sleep or appetite

Suicide in Older Adults

For older adults, signs of suicide vary somewhat as chronic disease and illness are often precursors to someone deciding to end their own life. Seniors are at significantly increased for suicide as a group — the end of one’s life can be a very challenging time psychologically and mentally.

Suicide is an even greater concern for people in nursing homes or have suffered from a debilitating physical condition, such as a fall resulting in a hip or knee fracture. The amount of emotional trauma and energy that are needed to deal with surgery and recovery from a procedure can be overwhelming to many.

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In older individuals, signs of suicide include:

  • Chronic medical illness
  • Loss of physical function
  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Isolation

If signs of suicide are identified, assist the person in making an appointment as soon as possible with a health or mental health professional. They may deny the need for additional help or treatment, so find a way to encourage and educate the individual about the benefits of feeling better emotionally.

Warning Signs of Suicide

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on December 9, 2006.

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is an author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2019). Warning Signs of Suicide. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Jun 2019 (Originally: 9 Dec 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 19 Jun 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.