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Most people who commit suicide have a mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.
Warning signs of suicidal feelings, thoughts, or behavior
Many of the warning signs of possible suicidal feelings are also signs 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
- Pulling away from friends and family members
- Acting out behaviors and running away
- Alcohol and drug use
- Not caring about personal appearance
- Unnecessary risk taking
- Fixation on death and dying
- Increased physical complaints often connected to emotional distress, like stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness
- Loss of interest in work, school, and community
- Feelings of boredom
- Trouble concentrating
- Feelings of wanting to die
- Lack of response to praise
- Shows signs of plans or efforts toward plans to commit suicide, including the following:
- Says “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide.”
- Gives hints like saying “I won’t be a problem much longer,” or “If anything happens to me, I want you to know ….”
- Gives away favorite possessions and 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 look like other medical conditions or psychiatric problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
What immediate action should be taken to prevent a suicide?
According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the following steps should be taken immediately if someone is threatening suicide:
- Take the person seriously.
- Involve other people. Contact friends and family members.
- Express concern.
- Listen attentively.
- Ask direct questions.
- Acknowledge the person’s feelings.
- Offer support.
- Don’t promise confidentiality.
- Don’t leave the person alone.
- Take the person to the nearest emergency room, contact a mental health professional, or call 911 immediately.
- Keep possibly harmful objects hidden.
- Prepare for possible hospitalization, if the healthcare provider advises.
Online Medical Reviewer: Ballas, Paul, DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2017
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