Hold on;
bad times always pass

Warning Signs

Warning signs

 The vast majority of people who commit suicide have indeed talked to somebody about it beforehand.   Also, it is generally agreed that being forced to promise you will not tell other people what you have been told in confidence does not apply when somebody’s life is in danger, so do talk to a professional if you are in this dilemma about a friend.

 Also, the statement made by some people that those who talk about suicide would never do it is totally wrong!


Here are some warning signs:

Talking, writing or joking about death:

This usually indicates hopelessness and perhaps significant depression, both of which are important warning signs.  Similarly, even if not talking about death, people who talk about life being pointless and having no meaning are also at risk. 


Talking about people who have died from suicide:

Every suicide brings with it the risk of “copycat suicide” by those close to the person who died, especially other family members (please keep this in mind if you are thinking of suicide!).   Copycat suicide is particularly a risk when a famous person dies from suicide, especially if media reports describe how the suicide was carried out, or make the action seem justified or glamorous.  Unfortunately, every suicide really means the illness won again.


Withdrawing or avoiding contact with other people:

It is not normal for someone who was usually friendly to avoid contact with family and/or friends.   Not making or responding to telephone calls or SMS messages indicate something is wrong.   This is usually a significant sign of depression


Giving away personal possessions:

Why would anyone, especially a person still leading an active life, suddenly give away possessions they used and enjoyed?    This is considered a particularly significant warning sign in young people.


Saying goodbye in a meaningful way:

This may be significant, especially if the person’s behavior has changed in other ways.


Making arrangements for after their death:

Pointing out where important papers or belongings are kept, or suddenly making a Will with unusual haste may be significant.


Risk-taking behaviour:

Unusual behaviour for the person, such as driving dangerously, or generally behaving recklessly, may be significant.


Deliberate self-harm or a suicide attempt:

These events indicate great distress and suffering, and there is very risk the person will repeat the situation (perhaps with a more drastic outcome), if the stresses affecting them have not changed or if the illness affecting them has not been treated.   Statistically, suicide risk is highest in those who have already attempted suicide.


Discharge from a psychiatric unit:

The early days and weeks following discharge from a hospital for treatment of a psychiatric problem, are known to be one of the highest risk periods for suicide.


Evidence of depression:

Feeling hopeless about the future and having trouble sleeping, are considered the most serious indicators of suicide risk in someone who has depression.   For more information on depression, go to  www.depression.ie at the bottom of the Home Page of this site.


Sudden calmness:

A person who has been very distressed, especially if they have had thoughts of suicide, may suddenly become calm and appear resigned to accepting whatever is happening.  This may mean the person involved has decided to stop resisting the urge to suicide, and is calmly accepting that suicide is inevitable, and no longer able to be resisted.   

“Terminal malignant alienation”:

This jargon phrase refers to a distressed person alienating all of those around them, often appearing extremely angry and grossly unappreciative of the help they are getting.   While the normal human temptation in response to such behaviour is to lash out verbally in return, this may be the last ling the distressed person has with support.  Instead, try to see their unreasonable behaviour and unreasonable irritability as symptoms of what they are suffering, not as the personality of the person involved.   Be patient, and the normal person will eventually return, feel bad about the irritability and actually be very appreciative of what you have done!

Disclaimer:  The Australian Suicide Prevention Foundation (1800HOLDON.com.au) is providing information only, not medical or psychological assessment, advice or treatment.

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The final straw!:

For most people who harm themselves or die from suicide, there is usually some final event which “tips them over the edge”.   Some personal or emotional major stress is usually the last straw.    Typical problems include the break-up of a relationship, arguments or friction with somebody significant, or the death of someone close to them.   


After a Suicide Attempt:

About one in 20 males and one in 100 females who have attempted suicide, will eventually die from suicide, and a number of people who have attempted suicide will attempt it again without dying.   It is therefore helpful to “keep an eye” on the person you are concerned about for a long period of time.   When appropriate, you might ask:


How do you feel now about still being alive?


and / or 


On a zero to 10 scale, where 10 is the way you were when you attempted suicide before, how strong are these ideas now?




For any feedback on this page, and any suggestions you think may be useful, please email  HYPERLINK "mailto:editor@suicideprevention.com.aueditor@suicideprevention.com.au.