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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

  • Experiencing chronic, unbearable pain

To be sure, ask

If you think a person you care about could be suicidal, ask, “Have you thought about suicide?” 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 him or herself. Don't wait to get help for the person.

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

To learn more

Contact a local mental health clinic or the following:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)

  • National Institute of Mental Health


  • National Alliance on Mental Illness


  • Mental Health America


  • National Suicide Hotline

    800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433)

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 means to self-harm, such as guns, rope, or stockpiled pills.

If there is an immediate risk, call 911.

In less critical situations, call the 24-hour suicide crisis hotline 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). If the person can be driven somewhere safely, take the person to the closest hospital ER.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2019
© 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.