A person who is thinking about suicide will usually give some clues or signs to those around them that indicate that they are distressed. Suicide prevention starts with recognising these warning signs and taking them seriously.
The following is a list of signs that people might give when they are feeling anguished and overwhelmed, in order to communicate their distress to others. These physical changes and behaviours are indicators that a person might be thinking about suicide. Some of these signs are stronger indicators that a person may be thinking about suicide - these indicators have been bolded. It is most likely that a suicidal person will display a combination of these signs rather than one single sign.
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult. But if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.
Sometimes people are worried that they might 'put the idea of suicide into the person's head' if they ask about suicide. You can't make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
Questions you can ask the person
What you can say that helps:
For more tips on talking to someone about suicide, see How can I talk to them about it?
If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about suicide, it is important to evaluate the risk. Those at highest risk in the immediate future have the intention to end their life, a specific plan, the means to carry out the plan and a timeframe.
The following questions can help you assess the person's risk.
If the person is at high risk of suicide, seek immediate help by calling 000 (police, ambulance), or with their permission take the person to hospital.
Know where to go for support
Find out what services are available. This should include local emergency services, community health services and hospitals. Keep a list of contact details and times when the services are available. You can look up local services through the community services database JIGSAW.
This information is available as a downloadable PDF.