8 Warning Signs Someone You Love May Be Thinking About Suicide (Or Is At Risk)
While we cannot really predict a suicide attempt, there are sometimes factors and signs to look for.
Suicide and suicidal thinking are more widespread than you might think. According to the results of a government survey released in September 2015, roughly 9.4 million adults—or about 3.9% of the population age 18 and older—had “serious thoughts of suicide” in 2014.
It can be hard to identify suicidal thinking in a loved one; there is no foolproof checklist to follow. But here are some warnings signs that might mean they are at risk.
1. Internet searches
Signs that someone is considering suicide may also show up on a computer. For instance, a Web-browser history may show that a person has been researching suicide and ways to kill himself, Dr. Clayton says. “With a teen, especially, parents should be monitoring Facebook or MySpace,” she adds.
Asking about suicidal impulses does not “put ideas” in a person’s head, says Dr. Robbins. If you’re concerned about suicide, you need to ask the person about it directly. If the person has access to guns, medications, or other items that could be used for self-harm, get rid of them. Most importantly, you should contact a health professional.
Ken Robbins, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, notes that about half of depressed people have “melancholic depression,” and are listless, fatigued, and have a loss of appetite.
The other half have “agitated depression.” Anxiety is the main symptom, says Dr. Robbins, but these people may also experience restlessness, difficulty sleeping, and trouble focusing.
“People who are agitated are more at risk for suicide because anxiety is so uncomfortable,” says Dr. Robbins.
3. Buying a firearm
One of the loudest and clearest warning signs is buying a gun. Access to a firearm in the home significantly increases the risk of a suicide—by up to 10 times, according to a 2008 article in the New England Journal of Medicine. Guns account for less than 10% of all suicide attempts, but those involving guns are far more likely to be fatal.
“Two to one, men complete suicide more often than women,” says Dr. Robbins. “And it’s largely because of the method they choose, not because of the intent that they have. Men tend to use firearms; women tend to take overdoses.”
4. Talking about suicide
If someone you know is talking about harming himself or says that he doesn’t want to live, take it seriously.
He may be at risk for a suicide attempt, particularly if he feels trapped or hopeless and is withdrawing from friends and family.
Don’t leave that person alone, let him know you’re going to get help, and call 1-800-273-TALK to be connected to a crisis center, says the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
5. A bipolar or depression diagnosis
The painful symptoms of conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder can drive people to consider suicide.
“Depression is the leading illness for suicide, so the deeper the depression gets or the longer it goes on, the more discouraged the person experiencing it feels,” says Paula Clayton, MD, the medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In bipolar disorder—a condition in which bouts of depression are interspersed with periods of mania—suicide risk may be higher when the person is depressed.
6. Feelings of guilt
Madelyn Gould, PhD, a professor of clinical epidemiology in psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City, says that excessive and inappropriate feelings of guilt—a common symptom of depression and anxiety—are something to be on the lookout for as well.
“You start to feel guilty about things—letting people down—and someone else who’s listening would say, ‘But you’re not,'” says Gould. “It’s just this very unrealistic guilt.”
7. Health problems
Although most people think teens are at higher risk of suicide than others in the population, it’s actually adults who are at greatest risk. In 2015, adults ages 45 to 64 had the highest suicide rate, at 19.6%, followed by adults 85 and older, who had a suicide rate of 19.4%, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Depression isn’t a normal part of aging, but a chronic health condition, a loss of independence, or problems with vision or hearing can increase the risk.
8. Drinking or drug use
Drug use and excessive alcohol use—which some agitated and anxious people turn to for relief—are warning signs for suicide, says Dr. Clayton. “You might not be an alcoholic or a drug abuser, but if you take things to make yourself feel better or to numb you, that makes you more vulnerable because it impairs your judgment and makes your thinking not as clear,” she says.
Substance use can also contribute to impulsivity, Dr. Clayton adds. Studies have shown that up to 80% of all suicide attempts are done on the spur of the moment, with very little planning.
See more: “The Morning After I Killed Myself.” The Most Heartbreaking Suicide Poem Ever.
The morning after I killed myself, I woke up.
I made myself breakfast in bed. I added salt and pepper to my eggs and used my toast for a cheese and bacon sandwich. I squeezed a grapefruit into a juice glass. I scraped the ashes from the frying pan and rinsed the butter off the counter. I washed the dishes and folded the towels.
The morning after I killed myself, I fell in love. Not with the boy down the street or the middle school principal. Not with the everyday jogger or the grocer who always left the avocados out of the bag. I fell in love with my mother and the way she sat on the floor of my room holding each rock from my collection in her palms until they grew dark with sweat. I fell in love with my father down at the river as he placed my note into a bottle and sent it into the current. With my brother who once believed in unicorns but who now sat in his desk at school trying desperately to believe I still existed.
The morning after I killed myself, I walked the dog. I watched the way her tail twitched when a bird flew by or how her pace quickened at the sight of a cat. I saw the empty space in her eyes when she reached a stick and turned around to greet me so we could play catch but saw nothing but sky in my place. I stood by as strangers stroked her muzzle and she wilted beneath their touch like she did once for mine.
The morning after I killed myself, I went back to the neighbors yard where I left my footprints in concrete as a two year old and examined how they were already fading. I picked a few daylilies and pulled a few weeds and watched the elderly woman through her window as she read the paper with the news of my death. I saw her husband spit tobacco into the kitchen sink and bring her her daily medication.
The morning after I killed myself, I watched the sun come up. Each orange tree opened like a hand and the kid down the street pointed out a single red cloud to his mother.
The morning after I killed myself, I went back to that body in the morgue and tried to talk some sense into her. I told her about the avocados and the stepping stones, the river and her parents. I told her about the sunsets and the dog and the beach.
The morning after I killed myself, I tried to unkill myself, but couldn’t finish what I started.
Consider this: According to The New England Journal of Medicine, between one-third to 80% of all suicide attempts are impulsive acts. And 90% of people who survive suicide attempts don’t end up killing themselves later…
See also: A Son Tells The Difference Between His Middleclass MOM & Rich DAD After Divorce. This is Priceless.
I come from both backgrounds. Father has an 8-ﬁgure income, compared to my mother working on 26K a year. They divorced, and my mother got custody. Most of my childhood was spent living on a crazy budget. I was a simple, white, video game playing nerd growing up. At my mothers, she could only afford one game and system for me (around 6 years old), and I selected the GameCube and super smash Bros melee.
Over the weekends (every other one) I went over to my dads. Because of the rivalry with my mother (aka, “who’s the better parent”), my father would ask me for a list of games or anything else I wanted, and in 2 weeks it would be there. When I was 17 (i never asked for anything over $80, maybe a really good ﬁshing tackle box, but that’s about it) | asked for a jet ski. Fast forward 2 weeks, and there’s a $15,000 jet ski in his backyard (he lived on the water).
The best thing about being rich is the comfort, convenience, and general happiness.
The worst part? It’s not true happiness. True happiness is feeling loved.
2 years ago, my mother made me a bank account linked to her name. Whenever something happened with her account (deposit, etc), I’d get an email.
When I was 16, | asked for an upgrade to my gaming computer. My planned upgrades were 600, and I said I’d help around the house and get a job myself (which I did) to pay her back.
Next day? | get 2 emails. One is a notiﬁcation of a $1500 purchase, and the next one saying that the account has gone in the negative. -1350 on the account.
I never told her that I knew, and I’m happy that I havent. Saying “I love you, and would do anything for you” is one thing, but doing it is another.
Since paying off that payment (took me 3 months), my mother got Graves disease (among other things), and had to stop working.
Even though I’m in college, I go back once a month (5 hour train ride) to help her clean the house, cook, shop, etc. I pay for most of it too.
No game system, jet ski, boat, smart tv, etc. My dad could buy for me could EVER even compare to my mother.
See also: Why I Fired My Secretary
This is a true story. Last week was my 40th birthday and I really didn’t feel like waking up that morning. I managed to pull myself together and go downstairs for breakfast, hoping my wife would be pleasant and say, “Happy Birthday!”, and possibly have a small present for me.
As it turned out, she barely said good morning, let alone “Happy Birthday.” I thought… Well, that’s marriage for you, but the kids… They will remember.
My kids came trampling down the stairs to breakfast, ate their breakfast, and didn’t say a word to me. So when I made it out of the house and started for work, I felt pretty dumpy and despondent.
As I walked into my office, my secretary Joanne said, “Good Morning Boss, and by the way Happy Birthday!” It felt a bit better knowing that at least someone remembered. I worked in a zombie like fashion until about one o’clock, when Joanne knocked on my door and said, “You know, it’s such a beautiful day outside, and it’s your Birthday, why don’t we go out for lunch, just you and me.” I said, “Thanks, Joanne, that’s the best thing I’ve heard all day. Let’s go!”
We went to lunch but not where we’d normally go. Instead she took me to a quiet bistro with a private table. We had a couple of mixed drinks and I enjoyed the meal tremendously. On the way back to the office, Joanne said, “You know, It’s such a beautiful day… We don’t have to go right back to the office, do we?” I replied with “I suppose not. What do you have in mind?” She said, “Let’s go to my apartment, it’s just around the corner.”
After arriving at her apartment, Joanne turned to me and said, “Boss if you don’t mind, I’m gonna to step into the bedroom for just a moment. I’ll be right back.” “Ok.” I nervously replied.
She went into the bedroom and, after a couple of minutes, she came out carrying a huge birthday cake…
Followed by my wife, my kids, and dozens of my friends, and co-workers, all singing “Happy Birthday”.
And I just sat there…
On the couch…