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Suicide Warning Signs

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Suicide is not a distinct disorder. Rather, it is a symptom of serious mental disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. Check here for the symptoms related to these disorders to learn more about the complete picture associated with suicide.

Links to

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Suicidal Talk -
    The person talks about committing suicide and/or makes suicidal threats or statements such as, "The world would be a better place without me in it", or Everyone will be better off when I'm gone". Although many people do have suicidal thoughts and never act on them, it is also true that many people who talk about suicide do go on to harm themselves; All suicidal threats should be taken seriously.
  • Previous Suicide Attempts.
    The person has made suicide attempts in the past.
  • Preoccupation with Death or Dying.
    The person talks about death most of the time, and/or makes preparations for death (such as making out a will, or writing letters to be opened after they are dead).
  • Signs of Depression
    • Social withdrawal
    • Poor eye contact
    • Depressed or aggitated mood, despair, grief, guilt, shame, hopelessness and/or helplessness.
    • Loss of interest in activities that were formerly pleasureable
    • Moodiness (shifting moods, fast changes from deep depression to calmness)
    • Changes in behavior, eating, sleeping and personality
    • Self-destructive behavior (high-speed driving, unsafe sex, gambling, financial irresponsibility)
    • Heavy use of alcohol and drugs.

  • The person exhibits signs of depression such as:
  • Recent life crisis or trauma
    such as depression, divorce, grief over the loss of a loved one or job, or an accident).
  • Gives away possessions

  • The person disposes of cherished belongings.

What to Do

You may be able to help someone who is considering suicide:

  • Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide. Be direct.
    ("Are you thinking about killing yourself?")
  • Be nonjudgmental.
  • Be willing to listen and allow expressions of feelings.
  • Be available. Show interest and support. Become involved.
  • Seek support. Don't be sworn to secrecy.
  • Don't dare the person to do it.
  • Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action and try to remove items that could be used for suicide.
  • Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Tell someone who can help (a mental health specialist) about what is happening and ask them to help you manage the situation.
  • Take the actively suicicidal person to the nearest hospital emergency room.
  • Call the police and report the location of actively suicidal persons who will not go to the hospital. The police can intercept a suicidal person and, if in their judgement a person is in danger of harming themselves, can be taken to the hospital for care.

 




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