Most people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.
Many of the warning signs of possible suicidal feelings are also symptoms 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
Withdrawal from friends and family members
Acting out behaviors and running away
Alcohol and drug use
Neglect of personal appearance
Unnecessary risk taking
Preoccupation with death and dying
Increased physical complaints frequently associated with emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and fatigue
Loss of interest in work, school, and/or community
Feelings of boredom
Feelings of wanting to die
Lack of response to praise
Indicates plans or efforts toward plans to commit suicide, including the following:
Verbalizes "I want to kill myself," or "I'm going to commit suicide."
Gives verbal hints such as "I won't be a problem much longer," or "If anything happens to me, I want you to know ...."
Gives away favorite possessions; 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 resemble other medical conditions or psychiatric problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the following steps should be immediately taken 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.
Do not promise confidentiality.
If possible, do not leave the person alone.
Contact a mental health professional and/or call 911 immediately.
Keep potentially harmful objects hidden.
Prepare for possible hospitalization, if the health care provider advises.