Learn about suicide warning signs

A person who is thinking about suicide will usually give some clues or suicide signs to those around them that indicate they are distressed. These are often referred to as suicide warning signs. Suicide prevention starts with recognising these suicide warning signs and taking them seriously.

A person who is thinking about suicide may exhibit suicidal warning signs. These signs can be indicators that the person is suicidal and needs help.

The following is a list of common suicidal signs that someone may give when they are feeling hopeless, helpless, anguished and overwhelmed. It is likely that a suicidal person will display a combination of these signs rather than one single sign.

Suicide prevention starts with recognising these suicidal warning signs and taking them seriously.

If you or someone you know is in immediate risk or if it is an emergency, please call 000.

 

What are some suicidal warning signs?

 

Physical changes

  • Loss of physical energy
  • Loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
  • Major changes to sleeping patterns, too much or too little
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Sudden and extreme changes in eating habits, either loss of appetite or increase in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Increase in minor illnesses.

 

Behaviours

  • Unexplained crying
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Uncharacteristic risk-taking or recklessness (for example, driving recklessly)
  • Fighting and/or breaking the law
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Quitting activities that were previously important
  • Prior suicidal behaviour
  • Self-harming
  • Putting affairs in order e.g. giving away possessions, especially those that have special significance for the person
  • Writing a suicide note or goodbye letters to people
  • Preparing to enact their suicide plan e.g. stockpiling medications.

 

Conversational signs

  • Escape: “I can’t take this anymore.”
  • No future: “What’s the point? Things are never going to get any better.”
  • Trapped: “I feel like there’s no way out of my situation.”
  • Guilt: “It’s all my fault, I’m to blame.”
  • Alone: “I’m on my own, no-one cares about me.”
  • Damaged: “I’ve been irreparably damaged”, “I’ll never be the same again.”
  • Helpless: “Nothing I do makes a bit of difference”, “It’s beyond my control.”
  • Threatening to hurt or kill themself
  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Planning for suicide.

 

Feelings

  • Despair
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Guilt
  • Worthlessness
  • Powerlessness
  • Loneliness
  • Isolation
  • Disconnection
  • Hopelessness.

 

Responding to suicide signs

A person may exhibit one or more of the suicidal warning signs. Some people might also show signs that are not on the list. If you have concerns, it’s important that you speak to the person.

The important thing to remember about suicide warning signs is that they are often unique to the individual. Not every person will react the same way. The one thing that is typically similar is that they all involve some degree of change: change from what is usual for the person.

 

Speak up if you are worried

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be difficult. 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. 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.

You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care.

 

Ways to start a conversation about suicide

  • I have been concerned about you lately.
  • I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.

 

Asking about suicidal thoughts

  • Are you considering suicide?
  • Are you having thoughts of wanting to die?

 

Questions you can ask the person

  • How can I best support you right now?
  • How long have you been feeling this way?

 

What you can say that helps

  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.

 

For more tips on talking to someone about suicide, read our resource on How to talk to somebody about suicide.

If you don’t think you can start the conversation, talk to someone who can help. It can be a family member, friend, or health professional. You can also call a helpline like Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 for advice.

 

Assessing the risk of suicide

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 the highest risk will have the INTENTION to end their life; a specific PLAN, the MEANS and a TIMEFRAME.

The following questions can help you assess the person’s risk:

  • Do you intend to take your life? (INTENTION)
  • Do you have a plan to take your life? (PLAN)
  • Do you have access to the means to carry the plan out? (pills, weapon, etc) (MEANS)
  • Do you have a timeframe for taking your life? (TIME-FRAME)

If the person is at high risk of suicide, seek immediate help by calling 000.

 

Know where to go for support

You want to encourage the person to get help as soon as possible. You can start by asking the person if they have any supports available, for example a health professional who is providing treatment or a family member who knows how they are feeling.

You can also help them to reach out to the services available in your state or territory. These include local emergency services, community health services, hospitals and helplines. Visit our webpage to find links and phone numbers for various services. Keep a list of contact details and times when the services are available.

You can also read more about developing a suicide safety plan, which is a plan to help keep the person safe.

 

In an emergency

If you are with someone who is in immediate danger, or concerned for their safety in any way:

  • Call 000 and request an ambulance. Stay on the line, speak clearly, and be ready to answer the operator’s questions.
  • Visit your local hospital’s emergency department.
  • Do not place yourself in danger.

 

Get Help Now

 

If you are worried about someone, and need someone to talk to, call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 to speak to a counsellor.

If it is an emergency, please call 000.

More from worried about someone

Learn about suicide warning signs

A person who is thinking about suicide may give some clues or suicide signs to those around them that indicate they are distressed. These are often referred to as suicide warning signs. Suicide prevention starts with recognising these suicidal warning signs and taking them seriously.

Read more

When someone is experiencing domestic violence

Domestic violence is when one person in a relationship hurts the other person. The violence and abuse can be physical, verbal, sexual, social, economic, spiritual and psychological. Understand what the signs of domestic violence are.

Read more

Supporting work colleagues

Take the time to support your work colleagues. They may be struggling, becoming withdrawn and not coping with their workload. If they are going through a tough time, there are a few things you can do to support them.

Read more

When someone is experiencing domestic violence

Domestic violence is when one person in a relationship hurts the other person. The violence and abuse can be physical, verbal, sexual, social, economic, spiritual and psychological. Understand what the signs of domestic violence are.

Read more

Supporting work colleagues

Take the time to support your work colleagues. They may be struggling, becoming withdrawn and not coping with their workload. If they are going through a tough time, there are a few things you can do to support them.

Read more