5 Warning Signs of Suicide That Can Easily Be Missed
Suicide is a deeply complex and sensitive issue, and recognising the 5 warning signs of suicide can be challenging. Individuals contemplating suicide often hide their pain, making it vital for us to be vigilant and informed. While we cannot always predict when someone is in crisis, being aware of potential signs and maintaining open communication can save lives.
What Are the 5 Warning Signs of Suicide?
Suicide is a complex topic, and those who are contemplating suicide or who make attempts may do so for any number of reasons. It is important to remember that while we can do our best to keep an eye out for the warning signs, these things can happen unexpectedly.
Many people close to those who have fallen victim to suicide may feel that they didn’t “see the signs” or they had “no idea they were planning this”. Being familiar with the warning signs, keeping open communication with your loved ones, and seeking professional support can help to keep your loved ones safe. Below are listed 5 of the most prominent warning signs that someone may be considering taking their life.
Expressing Suicidal Thoughts
If someone is having suicidal thoughts, often called ‘suicidal ideation’ by psychologists, they may openly or indirectly talk about suicide. They may express feelings of hopelessness, wanting to die, or having no reason to live.
Someone may make statements such as “I can’t go on” or “I wish I was dead”. They may even start to wonder aloud about what happens after death or what dying feels like.
Even ‘jokes’ about suicide or death can be warning signs that this topic is on their mind. While in isolation they may be considered a ‘dark sense of humour’, repeated comments or jokes may indicate a more consistent or intrusive thought pattern that could be dangerous.
Social withdrawal and a sudden disinterest in activities and relationships that were once important to the person can be a warning sign. They may start to decline invitations to spend time together, invent excuses to get out of important events, and stop regularly responding to texts or calls.
This isolation may be for multiple reasons, such as wanting to explore their urges alone, wanting to avoid burdening others with their emotional pains, or fearing the shame and stigma that is associated with suicide. Alternatively, depression, a common factor in suicidal thoughts, can lead to a loss of interest in activities and relationships. People may isolate themselves because they no longer find joy or meaning in the things they used to enjoy.
Drastic Changes in Behaviour
Keep an eye out for any significant changes in behaviour, mood or routine.This can include sudden aggression, agitation, recklessness, or giving away personal belongings.
As an example, individuals contemplating suicide may engage in behaviors such as excessive drug or alcohol use, dangerous driving, or taking unnecessary risks with their safety. They may feel that they have nothing to lose.
They may also stop engaging in appropriate self-care, such as a noticeable decline in personal hygiene and grooming, or significant changes in their sleep patterns. Symptoms of depression such as sleep disturbances, weight gain or loss, and loss of interest in things previously considered important would be included as drastic behavioural changes.
Expressions of Feeling Trapped
Suicide is often an act of desperation. People who have made attempts often describe a sense of feeling trapped in their circumstances, or believing that there is no way out of their problems.
They may say things like “I can’t see a way out of this” or “There’s no way things are going to change”. They may start to consider that death is the only way they can escape their lives and the pain they are experiencing.
If they feel that they are trapping others into certain circumstances they may also perceive death as a way of setting people ‘free’, or ‘unburdening’ them. They may make statements like “Everyone would be better off if I was dead” or “Noone would care really if I died”.
Preparation and Planning
Some people may consider suicide, or long for death, without making any concrete plans to take their life. However, those who may take action are likely to prepare and plan well ahead of time for the day when they act upon those urges.
Planning will involve coming up with a plan for how exactly they will end their life, such as deciding on a method or location. They may even visit this location ahead of time, or plan routes on how to get there.
Preparation involves both acquiring the means of how they will end their life (tying a rope, buying a weapon, counting out their medication) as well as preparing for after their passing (writing a suicide note, preparing a will, changing ownership of cars or homes). These steps are critical signs that someone is preparing to die soon.
If you have noticed any of the above signs in your loved one, please reach out for professional help immediately.
What Can I Do if Someone I Love Is Thinking About Suicide?
- Keep Your Calm and Approach Them: If you’re worried someone you care about is thinking about taking their own life, talk to them calmly and without passing judgment. Tell them you are ready to listen and to assist them.
- Non-Judgmental Conversation: Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts in an open and non-judgmental conversation. Make an environment where someone can feel free to express themselves without worrying about being criticised.
- Actively Listening: Listen attentively. Show patience, empathy, and understanding. Stay away from rejecting their feelings or proposing quick solutions.
- Ask Specifically About Suicide: Although it could be awkward, it’s important to openly inquire about whether they are considering suicide. Asking can start an open dialogue and enable them to express their emotions.
- Take it Seriously: Take it seriously if they mention having suicidal thoughts. Even if you are unclear of the severity or current risk, it is better to be safe and get assistance.
- Seek Professional Help: Encourage them to seek professional support by offering it. Suggest getting in touch with a therapist, counselor, or helpline for suicide prevention. Offer to help them discover the right resources.
- Remove Immediate Dangers: If you believe someone is in immediate danger of harming themselves or ending their life, do not leave them alone. Remove any potentially dangerous objects from their surroundings such as sharp objects, medications, weapons, and anything that could be used as a cord or rope.
- Keep Connected: Continue to check-in on your loved one, and let them know that you are there for them. Do not allow them to isolate themselves.
- Get Others Involved: Secrets allow for mental illness to thrive. Reach out to other friends or family members who can offer support. Together, you can create a network of care around the person.
- Learn As Much As Possible: Educating yourself about suicide prevention and mental health can help you to understand more. Knowledge is power, and when it comes to supporting someone at risk of suicide, this is doubly true.
- Keep Emergency Numbers At Hand: Be aware of local emergency numbers or crisis hotlines in your area, and make sure that they are available to the person you are supporting. You must have professionals at hand, even over the phone, in an emergency.
- Self-Care: Caring for someone who is struggling can be difficult on you emotionally. Do not forget to take care of yourself and seek support for your own wellbeing.
In the complex landscape of suicide, awareness and intervention can make a profound difference. In the journey to understanding and addressing suicide, it’s important to begin with open communication and empathy.
If you notice these signs in someone you care about, remember that you can be a lifeline. While there are not only 5 warning signs of suicide, your vigilance and compassion can help to protect yourself, and to protect your loved ones.