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Understanding the Warning Signs of Suicide and What to Do if You’re Concerned

suicide warning signs

It is difficult to reach adulthood without knowing someone who has attempted or died by suicide. It’s natural to feel helpless and guilty when someone you know takes this step, even if you were not close to the person. When a suicide occurs, our thoughts turn to how to prevent it in the future. Read on to learn the warning signs and what you can do if you see or experience them.

The warning signs

Suicidal risk announces itself with a number of warning signs.  Suicidal thoughts, talk, and threats should never be dismissed as just attention seeking or a cry for help. Those messages often lead to suicide attempts.

Talking about suicide or death is just one way people indicate they need help.  Other signs of suicidal intention are:

  • Unusual anger
  • Reckless behavior
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Loss of sleep or oversleeping

Confusingly, the above symptoms can easily point to a different problem, including an underlying physical malady.  A physician can help determine if that is the case, and can then refer someone to appropriate treatment.  In fact, a physician can be a first step toward assembling a team of professionals who can help those who are struggling.

An emotional wellness team

Physicians are qualified to help determine if someone is facing a physical health issue, or if there’s a need to address a mental health concern, or both.  A visit to your doctor is a great first step toward healing, and you will likely be asked a series of questions about recent wellness and activities.  The doctor might prescribe an antidepressant or other medication, therapy, or refer you to another professional.

Social workers can also play a key role on an emotional wellness team.  For example, a social worker who completes a Master’s of Social work from any number of U.S. universities will have training in diagnosing and treating mental health issues.  From there, a social worker can help someone learn healthy coping skills.

Young people can also benefit from having a school counselor on their emotional wellness team.  As U.S. News & World Report explains, counselors can help address specific academic concerns, as well as provide direct counseling, and arrange help for students and their families.

What treatments are there?

Suicide is preventable, and to stop it normally means treating whatever is causing the underlying issue.  For most people, this means treatment for depression.

Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for depression. Medications are often the first line of defense if an individual is showing signs of depression.  For instance, serotonin reuptake inhibitors appear to be particularly successful in treating the depression of suicidal individuals.

Serotonin is a naturally-occurring chemical in our bodies that helps us stay happy and stable, even in the face of adversity.  If someone is clinically depressed and therefore suicidal, his serotonin levels have probably fallen too low. Several antidepressants work by preventing the body from expelling serotonin. The result is that the patient has enough serotonin to overcome the sadness.

The link between addiction and suicide

 There is a strong link between drug and alcohol addiction and suicide. Both drugs and alcohol have sedating effects that can lead to depression.  On the flipside, people often use drugs to self-medicate, so an undiagnosed mental health issue can contribute to addiction.  When the issues occur together, both should be addressed.

Who can I call?

If you are thinking about suicide or someone tells you he or she is considering suicide, please call 911 immediately, visit an emergency room, or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.  If you are concerned about what happens when you make that call for help, a 2018 article in USA Today explains that the experience is completely confidential, and you do not need to disclose any information that makes you uncomfortable.

We must all be alert to the warning signs of suicide in ourselves and in our friends, family members, patients, students, and clients. It is better to err on the side of too much vigilance than too little. If you or someone you know is showing signs of suicidal ideation, reach out for help now.



Author Bio: Every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, Melissa Howard felt compelled to create StopSuicide.info. By providing helpful resources and articles on her website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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