Warning Signs

Most people who die by suicide exhibit warning signs in the days or weeks preceding their death. These signs may be displayed through the individual’s words, actions, or situation. The more warning signs observed, the greater the risk.

Verbal Clues

  • Talking about killing themselves
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling desperate or trapped
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Unbearable pain
  • Seeking revenge
  • “Ending it all”
  • Saying goodbye to family/friends

Behavioral Clues

  • Any previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Acquiring a gun or stockpiling pills
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Acting recklessly
  • Unexplained anger, aggression, irritability
  • Engaging in self-destructive behavior
  • Change in mood (e.g. anxious/agitated)
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Change in appearance or hygiene

Situational Clues

  • Being fired or expelled from school
  • A recent unwanted move
  • Loss of any major relationship
  • Death of a friend or loved one
  • Diagnosis of a serious/terminal illness
  • Anticipated loss of financial security
  • Fear of becoming a burden

Risk vs Protective Factors

There is no single cause of suicide. However, there are variables that increase or reduce the likelihood that a person might consider, attempt, or die by suicide. Risk or protective factors can be characteristics of an individual or their environment.

Risk Factors

  • Prior suicide attempt(s)
  • Misuse and abuse of alcohol or other drugs
  • Mental health conditions (e.g. depression or other mood disorders)
  • Exposure to suicide
  • Family history of suicide attempts
  • Serious or chronic health condition and/or pain
  • Trauma history
  • Hopelessness
  • Access to lethal means
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of access to behavioral health care
  • Stressful life events (e.g. death, divorce, job loss)
  • Prolonged stress factors, including bullying, relationship problems, and unemployment
  • Stress resulting from prejudice/discrimination in LGBTQIA youth
  • Academic, financial, and/or relationship difficulties     

Protective Factors

  • Connectedness to individuals, family, community, and social institutions
  • Self-esteem and a sense of purpose or meaning in life
  • Cultural, religious, or personal beliefs that discourage suicide
  • Skills in problem-solving, conflict-resolution, and coping
  • Ability to adapt to change
  • Availability of behavioral health care
  • Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide