Suicide can be prevented. While some suicides occur without any outward warning, most people who are suicidal do give warnings. Prevent the suicide of loved ones by learning to recognize the signs of someone at risk, taking those signs seriously and knowing how to respond to them.

Warning signs of suicide include:

Observable signs of serious depression:

Unrelenting low mood




Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension


Sleep problems

Increased alcohol and/or other drug use

Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks

Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die

Making a plan

Giving away prized possessions

Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm

Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications

Unexpected rage or anger

The emotional crises that usually precede suicide are often recognizable and treatable. Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Serious depression can be manifested in obvious sadness, but often it is rather expressed as a loss of pleasure or withdrawal from activities that had been enjoyable. One can help prevent suicide through early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric illnesses.

When You Fear Someone May Take Their Life
Most suicidal individuals give some warning of their intentions. The most effective way to prevent a friend or loved one from taking his or her life is to recognize the factors that put people at risk for suicide, take warning signs seriously and know how to respond.

Know the Facts

More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves are suffering from one or more Psychiatric Disorders, in particular:

Major Depression (especially when combined with alcohol and/or drug abuse)

Bipolar Depression

Alcohol Abuse and Dependence

Drug Abuse and Dependence


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Eating Disorders

Personality Disorders

Depression and the other mental disorders that may lead to suicide are -- in most cases -- both recognizable and treatable. Remember, depression can be lethal.

The core symptoms of major depression are a "down" or depressed mood most of the day or a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyed for at least two weeks, as well as:

Changes in sleeping patterns

Change in appetite or weight

Intense anxiety, agitation, restlessness or being slowed down

Fatigue or loss of energy

Decreased concentration, indecisiveness or poorer memory

Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, self-reproach or excessive or inappropriate guilt

Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Past Suicide Attempts

Between 25 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide. Those who have made suicide attempts are at higher risk for actually taking their own lives.

Availability of Means

In the presence of depression and other risk factors, ready access to guns and other weapons, medications or other methods of self-harm increases suicide risk.

Recognize the Imminent Dangers


The signs that most directly warn of suicide include:

Threatening to hurt or kill oneself

Looking for ways to kill oneself (weapons, pills or other means)

Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide

Has made plans or preparations for a potentially serious attempt

Other warning signs include expressions or other indications of certain intense feelings in addition to depression, in particular


Intense anxiety, usually exhibited as psychic pain or internal tension, as well as panic attacks feeling desperate or trapped -- like there's no way out

Feeling hopeless

Feeling there's no reason or purpose to live

Rage or anger


Certain behaviors can also serve as warning signs, particularly when they are not characteristic of the person's normal behavior. These include:

Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities

Engaging in violent or self-destructive behavior

Increasing alcohol or drug use

Withdrawing from friends or family

Take it Seriously

50-75% of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member

Imminent signs must be taken seriously.

Be willing to listen.

Start by telling the person you are concerned and give him/her examples.

If he/she is depressed, don't be afraid to ask whether he/she is considering suicide, or if he/she has a particular plan or method in mind.

Ask if they have a therapist and or are taking medication.

Do not attempt to argue someone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary and that depression can be treated. Avoid the temptation to say, "You have so much to live for," or "Your suicide will hurt your family."

Seek Professional Help

Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a physician or mental health professional immediately.

Individuals contemplating suicide often don't believe they can be helped, so you may have to do more.

Help the person find a knowledgeable mental health professional or a reputable treatment facility, and take them to the treatment.

In an Acute Crisis


If a friend or loved one is threatening, talking about or making plans for suicide, these are signs of an acute crisis.

Do not leave the person alone.

Remove from the vicinity any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used for suicide.

Take the person to an emergency room or walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital.

If a psychiatric facility is unavailable, go to your nearest hospital or clinic.

If the above options are unavailable, call 911 or Tuscola Behavioral Health Systems 800.462.6814 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Follow-up on Treatment

Suicidal individuals are often hesitant to seek help and may need your continuing support to pursue treatment after an initial contact.

If medication is prescribed, make sure your friend or loved one is taking it exactly as prescribed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. Usually, alternative medications can be prescribed.

Frequently the first medication doesn't work. It takes time and persistence to find the right medication(s) and therapist for the individual person.