This article covers the warning signs of suicide you should look out for. If you notice any of these warning signs in a friend, relative or loved one, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and share your concerns with a member of their healthcare team.
High-risk warning signs
A person may be at high risk of attempting suicide if they:
- threaten to hurt or kill themselves
- actively look for ways to kill themselves, such as stockpiling tablets or buying equipment that could be used to harm themselves
- talk, draw or write about death, dying or suicide.
Other warning signs
A person may also be at risk of attempting suicide if they:
- complain of feelings of hopelessness, saying things such as, 'What's the point of even trying? I know things are never going to get better'
- have episodes of sudden rage and anger
- act recklessly and engage in risky activities with an apparent lack of concern about the consequences
- talk about feeling trapped, such as saying they cannot see any way out of their current situation
- start to abuse drugs or alcohol, or use more than they usually do
- become increasingly withdrawn from friends, family and society in general
- appear anxious and agitated
- are unable to sleep or sleep all the time
- have sudden mood swings – a sudden lift in mood after a period of depression could indicate they have made the decision to attempt suicide
- talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
- lose interest in their appearance, such as dressing badly, no longer wearing make-up or not washing regularly
- put their affairs in order.
Where to get help
If you or someone you care for are feeling suicidal, seek immediate help. Their doctor or acute care team can provide them with a range of options for treating and managing mental health issues. The emergency department at their local hospital will also be able to help them. Alternatively if they are in Australia, they can ring the following numbers for 24-hour help, support and advice:
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- MensLine Australia – 1300 78 99 78
While waiting for the person to receive treatment, remove any possible means of suicide from their immediate environment, such as medicines, knives or other sharp objects, and household chemicals, such as bleach.
If you think there is a high risk of a person dying by suicide before you can get the appropriate professional help, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance and police.
Last reviewed: October 2016