• Suicide is more common than a lot of us realize—which makes it incredibly important for us to understand the warning signs and look out for those around us.
  • Two common warning signs are hopelessness and withdrawal: Individuals may feel extremely hopeless about their future or withdraw from everyday life.
  • Individuals who are contemplating suicide may also display a sudden calmness once they’ve developed a clear plan.
  • Furthermore, they often demonstrate reckless behavior or even talk openly about suicide.
  • In a crisis situation, don’t hesitate to escort someone who has intentions to act on a suicide plan to the hospital or emergency room.
  • If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings yourself, go to your nearest emergency room or call the suicide hotline at 988.

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States — in 2020, there were 45,979 deaths, or one death every 11 minutes, by suicide.

If these numbers tell us anything, it’s that learning to recognize suicidal thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is absolutely critical. Educating yourself on these signs could be the difference between life and death for someone you care about. Here are a few of those signs to look out for:

If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, please get immediate help. Call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or go to your nearest emergency room.

1) Hopelessness

One of the leading causes of suicide is hopelessness—having no expectation of fortune or success in the future. Individuals that have an obsessive fixation on an ominous future can fall prey to the belief that death is the only way to escape these painful ruminations. Individuals who are fighting overwhelming and even dangerous feelings of despair may talk very frequently about a future that seems threatening or hopeless.

2) Withdrawal

In the days and months leading up to suicide, it is very common for a person to withdraw from their community almost entirely. They may stop returning phone calls and texts, quit attending social events, and even stop showing up to school or work. Activities that once were a major part of life may suddenly be of no interest. Individuals showing this level of isolation are at a very high risk of attempting suicide.

3) Sudden calmness

When a person begins to think about suicide, a dramatic shift in behavior often takes place. Leading up to the decision, a person may show visible signs of emotional distress, hopelessness, anxiety, or despair. However, after a plan is set in place, the individual may very suddenly appear calm and disconnected from issues that previously were of major concern. When this sudden shift happens in demeanor, it could be an indication that a suicide plan is already in motion.

4) Reckless behavior

Before a person reaches the point of suicide, there are usually clear indications that they are beginning to value their life less and less. Abuse of drugs and alcohol, careless driving, binge eating, and impulsive spending sprees could be warning signs that an individual no longer values their life. This kind of dangerous behavior should be addressed as soon as possible. In many cases, these reckless choices are the last cries for help that should not be disregarded.

5) Talk of suicide

It may surprise you to learn that many people who commit suicide threaten it at least once prior to carrying out the act. It’s commonly believed that those who threaten suicide are only seeking attention. However, this is highly inaccurate. No matter how emotionally charged a situation might be, all suicide threats should be taken seriously.

“If you believe someone is suicidal, check in with them early and often,” says Emily Simonian, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Head of Clinical Learning at Thriveworks. “Ask how they’re doing and enlist the help of their other loved ones or family. Suggest they see a mental health professional — you might even consider helping them look for the right therapist and taking them to see that therapist. In-person sessions are best for those struggling with suicidal ideation. In a crisis situation, don’t hesitate to escort someone who has intentions to act on a suicide plan to the hospital or emergency room.”