How to Notice Suicidal Thoughts

Suicide is the act of someone taking their own life.  Suicide is not a mental illness, but is a consequence of an untreated mental illness.  The types of mental illnesses that can often be the cause of suicidal thoughts are depression, bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders.  These disorders can lead to someone taking their own life if the disorder is not treated properly.

Warning Signs

There are many warning signs that suicidal individuals may display. It is important to note that some individuals who commit suicide show no warning signs at all, but 50-75% of suicides had a warning sign that was ignored or not taken seriously.  Some warning signs are severe sadness, sleeplessness, losing interest in hobbies, sudden calmness, withdrawal, changes in personality and/or appearance, dangerous behavior, threatening or talking about suicide.

Suicide Trends

Suicide rates are highest in teens and young adults, and the elderly.  Suicide is higher in older people who have lost a spouse through divorce or death.  People who have attempted suicide in the past are also more likely to commit the act again.  People who are unmarried and unemployed are also more likely to commit suicide.  People with long-term pain or terminal illnesses are also more likely to commit suicide.


Suicide can be prevented and if you notice someone with any of the warning signs it is best to reach out.  If you encounter someone who is displaying suicidal warning signs, don’t be afraid to ask if they are depressed.  Ask them if they have talked with a professional to help them get through the issues they are facing.  Do not try to talk them out of it, but rather point them in the direction of getting help and realizing that depression is treatable and temporary.  Most people just want to know that someone cares for them and that they are valued in society.

Ask the Questions

When you realize you have a friend who is suicidal, ask them the question “Do you feel badly enough to take your own life?”  If they answer yes, ask them the plan they have in action to perform the act of suicide.  Then ask if they have the materials available to follow through with their plan.  Also, ask them if they have set a date or time that they would consider performing the act.  If they have all of the above, ask them if they have ever attempted suicide before and ask them what happened if they did to stop it.

In the Moment

If you are encountering someone who is suicidal at that time, you need to make sure they are not left alone.  Weapons and medication should be taken away from the residence as well.  Contact someone to help like a therapist or 911 if there is immediate danger.  Your job in the moment is to keep the individual as calm as possible and get them through the storm.  You should be offering empathy and not sympathy in this moment.

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