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The Warning Signs of Suicide


One of the most devastating aspects of suicide is the feeling of helplessness. Could I have done something to prevent this tragedy? What were the signs that something was wrong? Should I have realised he/she was feeling this way? Why didn’t he/she talk to me?

The truth is there is no special type of person that commits suicide. There may be trends, but it can happen to anyone. However there are signs that someone is thinking of committing suicide:

  • Most suicidal people talk about suicide and death — they may directly or indirectly tell others of their plan to kill themselves: “By tomorrow I’ll be gone”, “You’ll all be better off without me”, “I wish I was dead”. People who talk about suicide usually attempt suicide.
  • They may be overly preoccupied with death and dying, funerals and funeral arrangements, what happens when people die etc.
  • There is a sudden change in their behaviour. This could be their sleeping habits (they may sleep far more or less than usual), appearance (they no longer care about their appearance), eating habits (they may eat more or less than usual), hobbies (no interest in the things they used to enjoy).
  • They have suffered a significant loss — the death of a parent/grandparent, sibling, close friend; the break up of a relationship; a divorce or separation.
  • They become withdrawn from friends and family, they don’t want to take part in social activities, they dislike company and want to be left alone.
  • They have attempted suicide before, and there may be a history of suicide attempts.
  • They give away treasured possessions that matter to them — favourite CDs, books, clothing, personal items — things they would never have parted with before.
  • They start to put their affairs in order, tie up loose ends, tidy their room/house, return borrowed items, enquire about funeral costs/flowers etc.
  • They may use alcohol or drugs for the first time, or overindulge in them far more than usual.
  • They begin to behave more aggressively than usual: violent outbursts, disobedience, defiance.
  • They may feel worthless, hopeless, unlovable and humiliated, lack self-esteem, little or no confidence.

These warning signs are a cry for help. We must be alert to the needs of our family and friends and be ready to intervene if necessary — we may be able to prevent an unnecessary death.