Suicide warning signs

Suicide warning signs

Depression and suicide are devastating killers. 

Someone might choose to commit suicide for many reasons. Most times, the person has suffered from a mental health disorder that is stress and health-related. Depression is a primary culprit, a feeling of hopelessness and despair that can be absolutely debilitating. 

AFSP says that depression is a common condition associated with suicide. Usually, it is undiagnosed or untreated. Depression, substance abuse and various types of anxiety disorders increase the risk of suicide.

Suicide is a scary topic to address. However, the more you speak about it, the better your chances are to heal.

If you have thoughts of suicide, please immediately consult a medical professional. Many helplines in South Africa are toll-free. 

Suicide warning signs 

Mental health professionals note a change in everyday behaviour as a sign that something might be wrong.

The behaviours may link to a painful event, loss or change. If you know of anyone that seems depressed, you are encouraged to ask questions – but don’t pry. Ask if they are okay or if they need anything. Perhaps, lending an ear without saying anything is the best. Sometimes, people need someone to vent to.

There is usually more than one warning sign.

Someone contemplating suicide may feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges, lack hope for the future and see suicide as the only solution. Take note of whether the person talks about killing themselves, being a burden to others, feeling trapped or experiencing unbearable pain. 

What Environmental Factors Contribute to Mental Illness?

Specific stressors trigger illness in a predisposition person. Some of these stressors are:

  • Death 
  • Divorce
  • Dysfunctional or abusive family and home life
  • Feelings of inadequacy, 
  • low self-esteem, 
  • anxiety, anger, or loneliness
  • Changing jobs
  • Changing schools
  • Social expectations 
  • Cultural expectations
  • Substance abuse

A family history of suicide

A family history of mental illness or suicide, or even impulsive behaviour can increase the risk. Mental illness can, in some cases, be hereditary. 

People who have a family member who suffers from mental illness may be somewhat more likely to develop one themselves. Susceptibility in families happens through genes, says WebMD. Experts believe many mental illnesses come from abnormalities in genes. How these genes interact with the environment is unique for every person. That’s why someone can inherit a susceptibility to a mental illness and doesn’t necessarily develop the disease. Mental illness occurs from the interaction of multiple genes and other factors like stress, abuse, or a traumatic event that might influence or trigger a condition in a person who has an inherited susceptibility to it.

Emotional indicators

Besides depression, there are other emotional red flags of suicide, including the lack of interest in activities the person usually enjoyed, irritability, anger, shame, humiliation and mood swings.  

Behavioural changes

Isolation is a behavioural marker of someone who may want to kill themselves. Other behaviour changes to look out for are:

  • Lack of communication with friends or family
  • Writing a will
  • Giving away possessions
  • Driving recklessly
  • Amplified aggression
  • More drug and alcohol abuse
  • Suicide internet searches
  • Gained ownership of pills or a weapon

Suicide signs in adults

Older adults have a higher risk of suicide than other age groups. 

Suicidal elderly people usually neglect their hygiene, eat poorly and give away possessions. If you see this behaviour in an older adult, encourage them to talk to a mental health professional as soon as possible.

Warning signs in children

If a child mentions that they want to die, pay attention to them. You may think some things kids are dealing with aren’t a big deal or stressful, but it may be the exact opposite to a child. 

Signs that your child may be at risk for suicide include:

  • Being bullied
  • Losing a loved one
  • A victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Mental illness history

What can you do to help?

If someone confides in you about their thoughts of suicide, ask them what help they are comfortable with – whether it’s calling a crisis hotline or booking a doctor or counselling appointment. 

Suicidal behaviour is less likely if there is:

  • Clinical care for mental, physical and substance abuse
  • Access to clinical interventions
  • Restricted access to lethal methods of suicide
  • A strong family and community support system
  • Medical and mental healthcare support
  • Methods of problem-solving and conflict resolution without violence
  • Religious and cultural beliefs that discourage suicide and encourage self-preservation

The right questions can save a life.

If comfortable, ask the person thinking of committing suicide if they have a plan. If they say yes, seek immediate help. Take them to an emergency room or a clinic that can care for them. It may seem as if you are betraying them, but remind yourself that by getting them the proper professional help, you are doing the right thing.


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