How to Recognize Suicide Warning Signs and Take Proactive Steps to Help a Loved One

Being alert and aware of possible suicide warning signs could be the first step in helping to save a loved one’s life. The next step is getting them immediate professional help to effectively divert this most dangerous path.

In the event of a crisis, please call an emergency service such as 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.

Suicidal ideation is never something you should treat lightly. You don’t ever want to get to the point where it’s too late to take it seriously. And, considering that there is always help close at hand for those who are contemplating suicide, now is the best time to reach for it.

As you keep a close eye out for suicide warning signs, keep in mind that, in general, mental health disorders call for professional care. If you do observe signs that someone might be suicidal, it is critical that you reach out for help immediately (1-800-273-8255). If you notice signs of mental, emotional, or behavioral distress, the best thing you can do to support that person is to help them access treatment options to reclaim their strength and hope.

What Are the Warning Signs of Suicide Risk?


Signs of suicidal ideation may be obvious on the surface, such as when someone talks about killing themselves or about wanting to die. But signs may be just as concerning but much less obvious, such as when someone begins to give away their possessions—perhaps without explaining that they are preparing to end their life. Oddly enough, it can even be a warning sign of suicide risk if someone has been in a low mood but suddenly perks up without a reasonable cause—perhaps because they have decided to end their suffering and they’re feeling relief.

For the person in distress, these symptoms and signs are very personal. Don’t make the mistake of looking for a very particular type of presentation for suicide risk and overlooking the real danger. There is no one single cause of suicidal urges and ideation either; immense distress can relate to anything from a person’s job to their relationships to their feelings of self-worth to their overall mental instability. In any case, they need professional treatment to address the condition of their mental, emotional, and behavioral health.

Here are some common signs that have been observed among people contemplating suicide:

  • Withdrawing from people, places, and activities that they used to be involved with.
  • A decreased ability to engage with and be interested in things.
  • Showing agitation or anxiety.
  • Behaving recklessly or as if they no longer care.
  • Unexplained behavioral changes in one direction or another—particularly negative changes.
  • Having difficulty sleeping or sleeping much more than is usual.
  • Changes in physical appearance, indicating less attention to personal care and hygiene.
  • Using or abusing substances to cope with feelings of distress.
  • Evidence of rage or other intense emotions.
  • Mood swings and emotional instability.
  • Talking about how they are a burden for others or how others would be better off without them.
  • Talking about how they don’t have a reason to live.
  • Increased negativity in their speech and demeanor.
  • Talking about pain that is unbearable—it may be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.
  • Talking about how they feel trapped, helpless, or hopeless.
  • Preoccupation with something distressing, traumatic, humiliating, discouraging, or disappointing that they have experienced.
  • Talking about killing themselves or wanting to die.
  • Demonstrating a general preoccupation with death.
  • Researching suicide or methods of suicide online.
  • Seeking tools and ways to put in place a plan for suicide.
  • Giving away their things or visiting people to reconnect.
  • Creating or revising a will.
  • Otherwise showing signs of depression.

Signs may be even more telling if the person has experienced a traumatic event, lost something or someone, or gone through a major transition. But this is not to say that any of these conditions need be present in order for the suicide risk to be real and dangerous. Mental illness is complicated and can be devastating, especially if the individual does not receive adequate treatment.

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What Can You Do to Help Someone Who Is Suicidal?


When someone exhibits these or other warning signs of suicide or self-destruction, they are not just seeking attention for the sake of being in the spotlight. If they are seeking attention, it may be because they genuinely, desperately need help, not because they are self-indulgent. You might notice a sign in something they write or say, in the unusual way they act, or intuitively when you look them in the eyes or feel a sense of dread around them. Yes, it is easier to try to believe the signs aren’t there and that everything might be all right. But if they really are experiencing significant distress and if suicide is even a remote possibility, everything is not all right. And you most certainly can help. But how?

It is time now to make a phone call—either to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or to a comprehensive treatment center directly. Your loved one is no longer able to cope in a healthy way. The only way to really turn the tides and help them heal from the inside out is through professional intervention and care.

Not only can behavioral health experts effectively help clients to redirect a destructive path, but they can also take into account all areas of life that might be contributing to the distress. They can determine the very best treatment options possible for the individual. They can offer real reasons for renewed hope. And they will empower someone with long-term solutions and on-going care and support plans because the recovery journey will be ongoing too. You really can make a difference—even if you’re afraid, even if you feel helpless yourself—by reaching out to experts who know how to save your loved one’s life and help them rediscover their reasons for taking steps forward on their personal path.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders as well as process addictions and phase of life issues. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to healing.

In the event of a crisis, please call an emergency service such as 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) immediately.