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Warning Signs of Suicide and What To Do

If you think a person may be suicidal, ask them. Say, "Have you thought about suicide?" Asking won't make it more likely that they will try to do it. In fact, many people with suicidal thoughts say they are relieved when the question is asked.

If they say yes, they may already have a plan. They may know how and when they will attempt it. Find out as much as you can. A plan that is detailed and easy to carry out means the person is in danger right now.

Man and woman sitting outdoors, talking.

Know the warning signs

The warning signs for suicide include:

  • Threats or talk of suicide

  • Talking about death and dying

  • Change in eating habits

  • Change in sleeping habits, such as not sleeping or sleeping all of the time

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Suddenly buying a gun or other weapon

  • Saying things such as "Soon, I won't be a problem" or "Nothing matters"

  • Giving away things they own

  • Making out a will or planning their funeral

  • Suddenly being happy or calm after being depressed

Who’s at risk?

Some things put a person at a higher risk of attempting suicide. They include:

  • A history of suicide in their family

  • Past suicide attempts

  • Alcohol and drug use, along with impulsive behaviors

  • Having a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder

  • History of trauma or abuse including bullying

  • Major loss such as a divorce or death of a loved one

  • Money problems

  • Legal problems

  • Having access to a lethal weapon (such as a gun in the home)

  • Long-term (chronic) physical illness, including chronic pain

  • Being around others with suicidal behavior

Getting help

Don't try to handle this alone. Get the person to a trained healthcare provider. Suicidal thoughts may be a sign of depression. This is a serious but treatable illness.

Call a mental health clinic or a licensed mental healthcare provider in your area right away. This may be a:

  • Psychiatrist

  • Clinical psychologist

  • Psychiatric or licensed clinical social worker

  • Marriage and family counselor

  • Clergy person

When to call for crisis help

If the person is at immediate risk, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Tell the crisis counselor you need help for a person who is thinking about suicide. Or take the person to the nearest emergency room.

Don't leave the person alone. Anyone who is at immediate risk of suicide needs care right away. The person must be constantly watched. They must never be left alone.

Crisis help resources

These services are free and available 24/7:.

  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 988. Lifeline can also be reached at 800-273-8255 (800-273-TALK). An online chat option is also available. Lifeline is free and available 24/7.

  • Mental Health America at Call 988. Or text "MHA" to 741741.

  • Veterans Crisis Line at Call 988 then press 1. Or text a message to 838255.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.