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Recognizing Suicide Warning Signs in Others

People who are thinking about suicide may not understand that they are depressed. Certain thoughts, feelings, and actions can be signals that let you know a person may need help. Watch for these warning signs of suicide.

Warning signs

  • Threats or talk of suicide

  • Buying a gun or other weapon or hoarding medicines

  • Statements such as “I won't be a problem much longer” or “Nothing matters”

  • Giving away items they own, making out a will, or planning their funeral

  • Suddenly being happy or calm after being depressed for a long time

  • Expressing feelings of being a burden to others

  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or other risky behaviors

  • Withdrawing from people and activities

  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or being trapped

  • Sleeping too much or too little

  • Feeling there is no reason to live

  • Calling people to say goodbye

  • Having chronic, unbearable pain

To be sure, ask

If you think a person you care about could be suicidal, ask, “Have you thought about suicide?” It's a myth that asking people if they are suicidal puts them at increased risk of self-harm. Most people will tell you the truth. If they say “yes,” they may already have a plan for how and when they will attempt it. Find out as much as you can. The more detailed the plan, and the easier it is to carry out, the more danger the person is in right now. Tell the person you are there for them and don't want them to harm themselves. Don't wait to get help for the person.

Woman sitting next to man with hand on his shoulder, looking concerned.

In a crisis, call 988

Never leave the person alone or out of sight. A person who is actively suicidal needs help right away from a mental health expert. Take action. Remove anything they could use to harm themselves. This includes guns, rope, and stockpiled pills.

If the person is at immediate risk, call or text the National Suicide Lifeline at 988 or call emergency services at 911. Tell the crisis counselor you need help for a person who is thinking about suicide. The Lifeline will help you connect to the correct emergency crisis services. Or take the person to the nearest emergency room.

To learn more

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2022
© 2000-2022 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.