Recognising Warning Signs

There are several warning signs that indicate that a friend might be suicidal.

  • Intense emotional pain is an indicator.
  • They may take certain actions that indicate an attempt is a possibility.
  • They may talk directly or indirectly about killing themselves.
  • Some groups have been identified at higher risk because of their life circumstances.
  • There are places to go and things to do to help.
What to look for

When a friend is suicidal, they are often in intense emotional turmoil and simply want the pain to stop. They may seem depressed or confused and act in a way that suggests they'd rather not go on living. Some signs to look for are...

The Suicidal Person:
  • Hopeless and Helpless
  • May Not Seem Logical
  • Ambivalence (experiencing contradictory feelings like hope and hoplessness)
  • Emotional Isolation
  • Depressed and Lost
Experiencing Emotions of:
  • Loneliness
  • Guilt: Rejection/shame, Self-punishment, Loss of self-esteem
  • Fear: Distress, leading to terror, and completely overwhelmed
  • Anger: Anger and depression so closely related and lead to suicidal behaviour. Anger is a continuum that begins with hurt
They are in intense emotional pain and want to stop the pain.

Non-verbal warning signs may be:
  • Isolating self, withdrawing from others
  • Sudden Changes In Behaviour
  • Preparing For Death
  • Writing and drawing that shows suicidal intention
  • Collecting Means To Attempt Suicide
  • Over Use of Drugs And Alcohol
  • Previous Attempts - by themselves or someone close to them
Verbal warning signs:
  • Talking directly about killing themselves
  • Talking indirectly about it, but intention can be spotted
Examples of subtle warnings of suicide

Verbal clues:

  • "I'm nothing but a burden to my family”
  • "They're so cruel to me. They'll be sorry some day."
  • "Nothing will ever change, will it?"
  • "Do you think there is any life after death?"
  • "You'd look after my wife if anything happened to me, wouldnt you?"
Action clues:
  • Making very thorough efforts to get affairs in order (if this is done with a sense of urgency, or by a depressed person)
  • Writing a lot of letters at once to everyone who is significant in their lives (where this is out of character, or seen as important to complete without delay)
  • Not wanting to look ahead, or talk about the future
  • A sudden surge of energy and apparent sense of peace in someone who has been extremely depressed or distressed. (it may mean they have decided on a plan.)
  • Any stockpiling of medication, either by holding back on prescribed doses, or obtaining medication from more than one source
  • Giving away valuable possessions (particularly applicable in the young)
  • Running food supplies down to nothing (in depressed people living alone)
High Risk Groups
  • Adolescents
  • Elderly
  • Terminally ill
  • Persons who have experienced loss/stress
  • Survivors of persons who have committed suicide
  • Depressed persons, (when depression begins to lift.)
  • Alcoholics, drug takers/addicts
  • Policeman, physicians, dentists
  • Minority groups
Recognising these signposts is the first step towards helping your friend.
The next step is practical support and it is available.

Link to "Risk Factors" here  

Where Do You Go?
  • Friends - friendship, support and people that will listen is important
  • Groups to which they belong - may provide a network of help
  • A GP can find resources and make referrals effectively
  • Hospital - if you percieve an immediate strong risk of attempted suicide
  • Minister or a church - may provide a network of help or counsellors
  • Citizens Advice Bureau - they know of community groups, counsellors and other help
  • A phone counsellor - listed in the front of your local phone book. Try mental health listings
  • Visit a counsellor - make the urgency clear to the phone receptionist and ask for other options if they are fully booked
  • Phone a suicide prevention/support group - SPINZ, Yellow Ribbon and Project Hope will all talk to you and point you to ongoing help. See contact details in our organisations section: link here

Link to the page "How should we help?" here.

Detailed information

Click here for more indepth information on Danger Signs of Suicide