Suicide is rarely a spur of the moment decision. In the days and hours before people kill themselves, there are usually clues and warning signs.

The strongest and most disturbing signs are verbal - "I can't go on," "Nothing matters any more" or even "I'm thinking of ending it all." Such remarks should always be taken seriously.

Other common warning signs include:

  • Becoming depressed or withdrawn
  • Behaving recklessly
  • Getting affairs in order and giving away valued possessions
  • Showing a marked change in behavior, attitudes or appearance
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Suffering a major loss or life change

The following list gives more examples, all of which can be signs that somebody is contemplating suicide. Of course, in most cases these situations do not lead to suicide. But, generally, the more signs a person displays, the higher the risk of suicide.

Situations

  • Family history of suicide or violence
  • Sexual or physical abuse
  • Death of a close friend or family member
  • Divorce or separation, ending a relationship
  • Failing academic performance, impending exams, exam results
  • Job loss, problems at work
  • Impending legal action
  • Recent imprisonment or upcoming release

Behaviors

  • Crying
  • Fighting
  • Breaking the law
  • Impulsiveness
  • Self-mutilation
  • Writing about death and suicide
  • Previous suicidal behavior
  • Extremes of behavior
  • Changes in behavior

Physical Changes

  • Lack of energy
  • Disturbed sleep patterns - sleeping too much or too little
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Increase in minor illnesses
  • Change of sexual interest
  • Sudden change in appearance
  • Lack of interest in appearance

Thoughts and Emotions

  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Loneliness - lack of support from family and friends
  • Rejection, feeling marginalized
  • Deep sadness or guilt
  • Unable to see beyond a narrow focus
  • Daydreaming
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Helplessness
  • Loss of self-worth

If you are worried about someone you know, make sure you read our how to help pages