7 warning signs of suicide

7 warning signs of suicide

For any mental health concern, it’s important to seek help. Reaching out to others can make all the difference in someone’s well-being, especially since treatments like therapy and medication can help people manage mental health struggles. When someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, finding help is especially important.

If you or someone you care about shows some of these signs, don’t dismiss it. Signs can look different in each person, but there are a few common signals to pay attention to.

“There are some more obvious signs, such as talking about dying and making direct comments about not wanting to live,” said Dr. Munther Barakat, director of behavioral health therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wis. “But some signs are less obvious.”

Seven signs to watch for are:

  • Talking about dying or making comments about not wanting to live
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Increased substance use, including drugs or alcohol
  • Changes in behavior
  • Loss of interest
  • Lack of engagement with family and friends
  • Not being interested in making future plans

Some people may exhibit only some of these signs, or they may show more exaggerated versions of them — for example, men are more likely to have more extreme mood swings and substance use or engage in risky behaviors. If you notice someone exhibiting these signs, don’t be afraid to approach the person and provide them with an opportunity to talk.

“It’s okay to say to someone that it looks like they aren’t doing well and to ask them how they are doing. Don’t feel like you need to solve the problem,” said Dr. Barakat. “You’re there to listen and provide the opportunity to take them somewhere to get professional help.”

If someone is actively suicidal, don’t wait – bring them to the nearest Emergency Department. Otherwise, encourage them to get assessed by a behavioral health provider. If you’re struggling, reach out.

“Talking with family or friends can be a really good first step. You can also walk in for an evaluation in a psychiatric intake department, which are usually open 24/7,” said Dr. Barakat. “If it’s an emergency, find the nearest emergency department.”

Suicide can be a hard topic to talk about, but it’s important to know what signs to watch for. There is help available, and there is hope.

Are you trying to find a doctor? Look here if you live in IllinoisLook here if you live in Wisconsin.

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  1. What if they show none of these signs, have always, since childhoos, been a completely rational person seeming to be handling life well? For example, has shown up at various recent family celebrations, appearing to have a great time, etc. Then breaks the hearts of their parents/grandparents with taking his own life? Someone please explain that to me. I’m the grandparent & my heart is broken twofold: one for his parents & once for me!

  2. While this is all great, the problem is it takes months to be seen. We have to fix the timing of care if we really want to help, this is not just Aurora, this is everywhere.

  3. Surprised that the list of signs left out “Giving away cherished possessions.”

  4. What can I do for a dear friend who hit ROCK BOTTOM in his life due to mental illness (manic bi-polar/depression) that has gotten into multiple felonies with the law (due to drug use), is losing his house and is facing prison time? He will be homeless soon with no car and no family in Wisconsin.

About the Author

Ben Hoekstra
Ben Hoekstra

Ben Hoekstra is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked in marketing and PR for various Milwaukee nonprofits and received his master’s degree in Corporate Communications from Marquette University. He enjoys the outdoors, cooking, and all things Milwaukee.