Most people who commit suicide have a mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.
Many of the warning signs of possible suicidal feelings are also signs of depression. Observations of the following behaviors may be helpful in identifying people who may be at risk of attempting suicide:
Changes in eating and sleep habits
Loss of interest in usual activities
Pulling away from friends and family members
Acting out behaviors and running away
Alcohol and drug use
Not caring about personal appearance
Unnecessary risk taking
Fixation on death and dying
Increased physical complaints often connected to emotional distress, like stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness
Loss of interest in work, school, and community
Feelings of boredom
Feelings of wanting to die
Lack of response to praise
Shows signs of plans or efforts toward plans to commit suicide, including the following:
Says "I want to kill myself," or "I'm going to commit suicide."
Gives hints like saying "I won't be a problem much longer," or "If anything happens to me, I want you to know ...."
Gives away favorite possessions and throws away important belongings
Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
May express bizarre thoughts
Writes one or more suicide notes
Threats of suicide communicate desperation and a cry for help. Always take statements of suicidal feelings, thoughts, behaviors, or plans very seriously. Any person who expresses thoughts of suicide should be evaluated immediately.
The warning signs of suicidal feelings, thoughts, or behaviors may look like other medical conditions or psychiatric problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the following steps should be taken immediately if someone is threatening suicide:
Take the person seriously.
Involve other people. Contact friends and family members.
Ask direct questions.
Acknowledge the person's feelings.
Don't promise confidentiality.
Don't leave the person alone.
Take the person to the nearest emergency room, contact a mental health professional, or call 911 immediately.
Keep possibly harmful objects hidden.
Prepare for possible hospitalization, if the healthcare provider advises.