Suicide Awareness and Diagnosis

Know the Signs of Suicide and How to Handle Them

Suicide isn’t always somebody else’s problem. You may know an individual who has attempted to kill him or herself – and has perhaps succeeded, or you may have struggled with suicidal thoughts yourself. The World Health Organization estimates that roughly one million people commit suicide every year. Therefore, it’s extremely important to be aware of the warning signs of suicide, as well as what to do if you’re confronted with someone who displays these signs.

Those with mental illness have a higher risk of suicide. Many feel that suicide offers the only “hope” they have of ending the pain and hopelessness they experience on daily basis. Warning signs of suicide include: 

  • Talking about suicide and/or a preoccupation with the idea of death
  • Seeking access to guns, knives, pills or other means of ending life
  • A general sense of hopelessness
  • Feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness
  • Saying goodbyes to loved ones and finalizing one’s affairs
  • Recklessness and self-destructive behaviors
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • A sudden sense of calm, apparent happiness, or relief of depressive symptoms, that follows a decision to commit suicide

If you know someone who is exhibiting some combination of these traits, speak up! Don’t be afraid to address the issue of suicide with the person in a manner that is supportive and non-judgmental. Evidence shows that raising the issue of suicide does not encourage suicide, but rather assists in stopping it. Offer your help, especially if you think an attempt is imminent. Be prepared to act quickly by contacting an emergency medical or crisis-counseling center, removing deadly weapons or other means of self-harm, and staying with the individual until you can be certain that he or she is safe.