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How To Identify Signs of Suicide in Yourself & Others

September is one of the best months of the year. It provides many great opportunities to learn and expand your knowledge about mental health because it is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month in the United States. 

Unfortunately, suicide is a growing issue in the U.S. and throughout the world, and having the chance to focus on it for a month is a great thing. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day in the United States, 130 people die from suicide. On top of that, the CDC reports that for every suicide, there are 25 attempts. 

It is so important to learn to recognize the signs of suicide in yourself and others, because recognizing the signs before it is too late could save a life. September is a great month to educate yourself on suicide, the signs, and how you can help. 

To start, if you or someone you know are exhibiting signs of suicide, or have communicated they are considering suicide, please direct them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Here they can talk to real-life professionals and get the help they need. The importance of reaching out and asking for help can not be understated.


Signs of Suicide

There are a lot of different signs of suicide, and unfortunately, there isn’t one cookie-cutter sign that makes it easy to recognize. The signs of suicide can differ between cultures, ages, and different people show different signs. That said, here are some of the common indicators of suicide that you need to learn to recognize. 

Recognizing these signs in yourself and others around you can literally save someone’s life. If you see these signs and feel worried about a loved one, reach out and ask for help. There are people who want to help you, and help them. You are not alone. Make sure they know they are not alone either. 

Regularly Talking About Dying/Wanting to Die 

If someone you know (or you) are regularly talking about wanting to die, take this as a reliable sign they are having suicidal thoughts. Before someone attempts to take their own life, they often communicate about suicidal thoughts or feelings. Once they start openly talking about it and you recognize it, the cause for concern is paramount.

Phrases Like: “Being hopeless,” “feeling like a burden,” “feeling empty,” “having no way out of hardships”

At some point, we all feel a little hopeless, or burdened, or maybe even empty inside. Feeling this way is a normal part of life. But, when this escalates to continually feeling like this and continuously voicing it, this is a major indicator of suicidal thoughts. Phrases like this are often also indicators of depressive feelings. These depressive feelings have the potential of leading to more serious actions toward suicide.

Feeling Like There is no Reason to Live

Just like feeling hopeless, we have all felt down about ourselves and our life at some point in time. But, feeling like you have no reason to keep living is not healthy, and you deserve to be happier than that. When you or someone you know feels this way consistently, lovingly encourage them to receive professional help. 

Withdrawing From Loved Ones and Activities

Often, they withdraw from people and activities before someone attempts to take their own life. If you notice this in one of your friends, sit down and have an honest conversation with them. Ask them how they are doing, and then listen to their response thoughtfully. It really will make a difference.

Saying Goodbye

A common practice before attempting suicide is saying goodbye to the people you love. This is a serious goodbye, and more than the “see you later” we so often communicate with each other. Saying goodbye could include giving away important personal things, expressing gratitude, or telling a heartfelt goodbye. 

Emotional Distance

Finally, being emotionally distant can be a sign of suicide. Withdrawing emotionally from people, not caring about school/work/hobbies, and just secluding yourself (or watching someone seclude themselves) is a sign of suicidal thoughts. 

These are just a couple of common signs of suicide. There are others. You know yourself, and you know your loved ones. If you see these signs, reach out, and express love and concern. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry. If you are worried about others or worried about yourself, get help.  

Risk Factors of Suicide

There is a difference between risk factors of suicide and signs of suicide. Signs are things that people often do/say/don’t do when considering taking their own life. Risk factors of suicide are situations that could increase the likelihood of someone falling into a depressive state and have suicidal thoughts.

Understanding both the signs and the risk factors of suicide will help you be in tune with yourself and your loved ones to know better if they need help.

Having an Existing Mental Illness

A preexisting mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and others) can be a risk factor for suicide. These mental illnesses and suicidal thoughts are often comorbid (diseases that are often present together) with each other. There are a lot of ways that you can offer support to loved ones with depression and other mental illnesses. 

Substance Abuse

When you are under the influence of a substance, your thinking is not as clear. Substance abuse (and sometimes just substance use) is a risk factor of suicide because your brain is foggy, you may not have the best judgment, which can put people at risk. The risk of suicide drastically increases when there is substance abuse. 

Chronic Illness

Having a chronic illness or chronic pain can be a risk factor for suicide because it can feel like your pain will never go away. When in this situation, people can feel like their only option is to take their own lives. Be aware of this and offer support. 

Family History of Suicide

A family history of suicide is a real risk factor. Having a parent, sibling, or extended family member take their own life leaves individuals up to 2.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than someone who doesn’t have this same family history. 

Stressful Life Changes

Having a baby, moving across the country, a death in your family, a new job, and many other things are significant and stressful life changes. Experiencing these changes can be a risk factor for suicide, especially when combined with one or more additional risk factors. During these times, it is especially important to stay connected with those you love. 

Access to Lethal Means

To attempt suicide, you need access to the means. Having this access can be a risk factor for suicide. Being in a situation like this requires increased social support and having honest conversations with those you love. 

Being Exposed to Suicide

Someone you love, a friend, a family member, or even just seeing suicide on TV/books can be a risk factor for suicide. Studies have shown that even after a famous person (ex. Robin Williams) takes their own life, there are increases in suicides following that event. Being exposed to suicide is a real risk factor.

Getting Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Ask to receive professional help because it does make a difference.

Talk therapy has been shown to be effective in decreasing suicidal thoughts, and so has antidepressant medication. By themselves, they can make a real difference in improving your mental health. They are often very effective when combined as well.

There are options for you to get help. You are not alone. It is not normal nor healthy to have suicidal thoughts. Get the help you deserve to begin feeling happy again.

The Reality

Learning to recognize suicidal thoughts, signs, and risk factors in yourself will help you keep yourself healthy. Gaining the skills to recognize them in others could literally save their life. 

September is a great month to continue to educate yourself on suicide, the signs, and the risk factors. There are a lot of other ways of getting involved in this month-long campaign that can make a difference in your life and in the life of the people you love. 

You are wanted here. You matter. Learn to recognize these signs to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. 

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

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We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.

If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.