While suicidal thoughts and the act of suicide are not considered mental health disorders on their own, they can be a symptom and effect of various mental health conditions. People who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, schizophrenia or other conditions might experience suicidal thoughts, as well as make plans to act on these thoughts. Recognizing suicidal thoughts and behavior early on is vital to keeping individuals safe and connecting them with professional help. There are certain warning signs that may indicate that someone is having thoughts of suicide, which can be important to take note of to reduce the risk of suicide.
Potential Warning Signs of Suicide
The following signs could all indicate the possibility of suicidal thoughts and suicide. However, one or even several of these signs together may not necessarily mean that the person is suicidal, but could indicate a mental health condition.
- Sadness or depression that lasts for a long time
- Intense mood swings and anger
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Problems with sleep
- Suddenly appearing calm or content after a period of depression or low mood
- Withdrawing from daily life
- Socially isolating
- Changes in personality or appearance, such as speaking more slowly or paying less attention to personal hygiene
- Dangerous, risky or self-harming behavior
- A recent trauma or major life event
- Making preparations, such as getting their personal life in order, giving away personal possessions, making a will or visiting family and friends
- Talking about or threatening suicide
Groups at Higher Risk of Suicide
While anyone can experience suicidal thoughts, some people are more at risk than others. In terms of age, suicide rates are higher for teenagers and young adults, as well as the elderly. Women are three times more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to complete the act. Other complicating factors for suicide include chronic mental health conditions, having a family history of suicide or having attempted suicide in the past, and having a history of abuse or severe trauma. Some professions have a higher risk of suicide such as law enforcement.
What to Do If You Think Someone May Be Suicidal
The risks of suicide can be detected and managed with the right interventions. If you suspect that someone you know may be suicidal, there are some things that you can do to help them. Firstly, you can ask them about how they are feeling and even if they are depressed or thinking about suicide. You can ask them if they are taking any steps to address their feelings, such as seeing a therapist or taking medication. You can also encourage and help them to find professional support from a therapist and other professionals such as a psychiatrist. Some people might simply need to hear that you are there for them and that you care deeply about them.
If you suspect that someone might be in imminent danger of killing themselves, either make sure they aren’t left alone or get someone to check in with them regularly. You can also call a local or national suicide prevention hotline, call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room where crisis intervention workers are available.