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Look Out for Loved Ones

We don’t always know when our loved ones are in danger. Staying informed can help us identify the warning signs of suicide in those who need help. Below are common indicators to look out for.

Recognize the Risks

Familiarize yourself with the warning signs

Recent rejection or divorce

  • Sudden rejection by a loved one
  • Sudden break up of a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • An unwanted separation or divorce
  • Rejection of a friend

Recent unwanted move

  • Could indicate financial troubles or job loss
  • Could increase feelings of isolation or shame

Acting anxious

Rapid speech, difficulty sitting still, irritability, stomachache or headache, talking about feeling uncertain or anxious. Those having thoughts of suicide are often ambivalent about death. This means that part of them wants to live, but part of them also wants to die. This ambivalence can cause someone to experience uneasy, worry, and nervousness about their decision.

Changes in behavior

  • Missing appointments
  • Sudden drop in grades
  • Not getting work done
  • Withdrawing from social situations
  • Sudden improvement in mood, behavior, or work performance with no explanation. Could indicate the person has “made a decision” to end their life which has decreased their pain and anxiety.

Changes in sleep habits

Sleeping a lot more or less than usual

Death of a loved one

Death of a friend or family member, especially if the person died by suicide

Depression

  • Persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that may impact energy, concentration, daily behavior, sleep, appetite, and self-esteem.
  • Depression is both biological and physiological in nature and is the number one cause of suicidal behavior. It is highly treatable.

Serious health condition

Especially if they;

  • Are experiencing chronic pain
  • Received a life-threatening or frightening diagnosis

Failure to take care of themselves

  • Not bathing
  • Not caring about appearance or hygiene
  • Not taking medication
  • Not exercising

Financial loss or instability

  • Job loss
  • Excessive debt
  • Financial stress
  • Reckless spending

Getting affairs in order

  • Putting business and personal affairs in order
  • Making or changing a will
  • Taking out insurance policies
  • Making funeral plans
  • Could include cleaning or organizing their space, or making arrangements for a pet

Giving away belongings

Giving away;

  • money
  • prized possessions

Increased use of alcohol or drugs

  • Prescription or illicit drugs
  • Reckless or excessive use

Looking for ways to harm themselves

  • Stocking up on pills
  • Purchasing or acquiring a gun/ammunition
  • Searching on the internet for ways or means to end their life
  • Relapse or increased use of drugs and alcohol

Loss of a job

  • Being fired or quitting
  • Loss of face or perceived failure at work

Loss of interest

Stopping or disinterest in normal activities

Personality change

The key is any sudden “change” in personality. You know your friends, family, coworkers, etc. best. You will notice if something is off. This is always a good time to check in with someone.

Preoccupied with death

  • Talking about death
  • Texting about death
  • Posting on social media about death or dying

Reckless Behavior

  • Experimentation with drugs and alcohol
  • Driving erratically
  • Disregard for personal safety
  • Promiscuous behavior
  • Reckless spending

Social Isolation

Talking about feeling lonely or alone

Sudden interest or disinterest in church or religion

  • Some people are looking for closure or answers and seek out religious institutions in times of crisis.
  • Others may feel like they are going against their religious beliefs by contemplating suicide, so they stop attending.

Sudden loss of freedom

  • About to be arrested
  • Loss of driving privilege or driver’s license
  • Loss of phone privileges

Sudden mood changes

The key is any sudden “change” in mood. You know your friends, family, coworkers, etc. best. You will notice if something is off. This is always just a good time to check in with someone. This may include a sudden calm or euphoria, since the decision to end one’s life sometimes feels like a relief of pain.

Talking about being a burden to others

Examples:

  •  “Nobody needs me anymore”
  • “Nobody will miss me when I’m gone’
  • “My family would be better off without me”
  • “You won’t have to take care of me much longer”

Talking about death or suicide

  • “If ____ happens, I’m going to kill myself”
  • “I don’t want to live anymore”
  • “I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up”

Talking about hopelessness or no reason to live

  • “I can’t do this anymore.”
  • “What’s the point? Nothing matters.”
  • “I only make things worse.”

“It will never get better”

  • Saying goodbyes
  • Might include saying “thank you,” “I’m sorry,” or “I love you”
  • Might include a written note, social media post, phone call, or visit

Withdrawal

  • Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities
  • This includes withdrawing from activities the person previously enjoyed.

What to Do if You See Warning Signs

  • Find out the imminence and severity of the danger they’re in by asking direct questions. See conversation starters below.
  • If you’re worried someone is in immediate danger, call 911 and ask for a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) officer.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. You will be directed to trained professionals who can then direct you to other resources.
  • Be there for them. It could mean being there physically or digitally. Listen to what they have to say.
  • Help them develop a safety plan
  • Make sure to follow up with them.
  • Directly ask them if they’ve had thoughts of suicide. This does not make someone more likely to attempt suicide and can actually save their life.
See More Ideas +

Simple Ways to Start the Conversation

Asking direct questions is one of the best ways to help others open up, and start an important dialogue that could save their life. Use this generator for ideas on how to start the conversation.

You seem down. Is everything okay?
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