Signs of Suicide

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. &
the National Institute of Mental Health
04 Apr 2005

Knowing the signs of suicide may help you prevent someone from successfully committing 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 suicide. It is not your fault if this occurs.

The primary step in prevention of suicide is the recognition of the many signs of suicide. If you suspect that a loved one is contemplating suicide, take the time to talk to them, tell them that you have noticed a change in their behavior and that you are worried about them.

Suicide, however, 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 commit suicide without professional training. Direct an individual who is suicidal to professional help or a local community suicide telephone hotline. This may involve getting the individual the crisis number of a mental health provider and, in some cases, even dialing the number for the person.

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

For older adults, signs of suicide vary somewhat as chronic disease and illness are often precursors to someone deciding to end their own life. 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.

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Last updated: 29 Mar 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Mar 2015
    Published on All rights reserved.