Suicide warning signs to look out for
Someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts may show some clues, also known as suicidal warning signs, to those around them. Suicide prevention starts with recognising these warning signs and treating them seriously.
The following is a list of signs that people might give when they are feeling distraught and overwhelmed. These physical changes and behaviours are indicators that a person might be thinking about suicide. It is likely that a suicidal person will display a combination of these signs rather than one single sign.
It’s important to note that suicide warning signs are often unique and not every person will react the same way. If their behaviour is new or has involved some degree of change, you should seek help.
If you need to speak to a SuicideLine Victoria counsellor, please call 1300 651 251. If it is an emergency, call 000.
Suicide warning signs – Physical changes
- Changes to sleeping patterns – too much or too little
- Loss of energy
- Loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
- Changes in eating habits – either loss of appetite or increase in appetite
- Weight gain or loss
Suicide warning signs – Conversational signs
- No future – “What’s the point? I have nothing to live for”
- Guilt – “It’s all my fault, I’m to blame”
- Escape – “I can’t take this anymore. I’ve had enough”
- Loneliness – “I’m on my own … no-one cares about me”
- Damaged – “I’ve been irreparably damaged… I’ll never be the same again”
- Helpless – “Nothing I do makes a bit of difference, it’s beyond my control”
- Feeling like a burden – “They will be better off without me”
- Talks about suicide or dying
Suicide warning signs – Behaviours
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Taking unnecessary risks
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Loses interest in activities that were previously important
- Has previously attempted suicide
- Putting affairs in order (giving away possessions, especially those that have special significance for the person)
- Writing a suicide note or goodbye letters to people
- Unexplained crying
- Difficulty concentrating or feeling agitated
- Emotional outbursts or extreme mood swings
Suicide warning signs – Feelings
- Feeling trapped
- Feeling distressed after a significant loss
- Feeling like a burden
Responding to suicide warning signs
Speak up if you are worried
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings is important as you can help the person get the support they need.
You might be worried that you might ‘put the idea of suicide into the person’s head’ if you ask about suicide. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing your concern. In fact, by talking to them you can reduce their feelings of isolation, reduce the stigma, and provide some relief.
How to start a conversation about suicide
- I am worried about you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
- I have noticed that you have been doing (state behaviour), is everything ok?
- Are you thinking about suicide?
Questions you can ask
- What can I do to help you?
- What supports have you called on so far?
What you can say that helps
- I want to help you and I am here for you when you want to talk.
- I care about you. You are not alone.
- I want to help you get through this.
You can read more in our resource on How to talk to someone who may be suicidal.
Assess the risk
Listen to the what the person has to say and take the situation seriously. If the person tells you that they are thinking about suicide, you can ask further questions to evaluate the risk. People who are at the highest risk in the immediate future have the intention to end their life, a specific plan, the means to carry out the plan and a timeframe.
You can go through the following risk assessment questions with the person. If they are at high risk of suicide, seek immediate help by calling 000 or take the person to the emergency department of the nearest hospital.
- Do you intend to take your life? (Intention)
- Do you have a plan to take your life? (Plan)
- Do you have access to the means to carry the plan out? (pills, gun, etc) (Means)
- Do you have a timeframe for taking your life? (Timeframe)
Know where to go for support
You should seek professional advice from others. You can access your local emergency services, community health services and hospitals. Keep a list of contact details and times when the services are available.
Our SuicideLine Victoria counsellors are here to help you, call us on 1300 651 251.
You can also contact:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
- Head to Health can connect you to suitable services in your area.
If it is an emergency, dial 000 and tell the operator that you are with someone who is suicidal. Try to keep calm and stay with person.
Don’t let it build up. If you’re concerned about your emotional or mental health, call SuicideLine Victoria on 1300 651 251. Our professional counsellors are available 24/7. If it is an emergency, call 000.