Suicide Warning Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Suicide is a major public health problem, with more than 42,000 people dying by suicide each year in the United States. In the 10- to 34-year age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States.

Suicide occurs in persons of all ages and backgrounds, but certain groups of people are at increased risk for suicide attempts. These include persons with a psychiatric illness and a past history of attempted suicide. Males are more likely than females to commit suicide, although attempts are more common among females. A family history of, or exposure to, suicide; altered levels of neurotransmitters in the brain; and impulsivity are other factors that may increase an individual's risk of suicide.

While suicide is not universally preventable, it is possible to recognize some warning signs and symptoms that may enable you or your loved ones to access treatment before a suicide attempt. It has been estimated that up to 75% of suicide victims display some warning signs or symptoms.

Warning signs of suicide are varied. They may include:

  1. Talk of, or preoccupation with, suicide or death; threatening suicide; writing about death or suicide; researching suicide online.
  2. Signs of serious depression, including desperation; feelings of hopelessness; feeling no sense of purpose; loss of interest in things one used to care about; trouble sleeping
  3. Withdrawal from family and friends
  4. Reckless behavior, increased risk-taking, irritability
  5. Making statements about life not being worth living, hating life, that the "world would be better off without me," and similar feelings
  6. Increased alcohol or drug use
  7. Feelings of rage or uncontrolled anger
  8. Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other methods to commit suicide
  9. Changing wills, preoccupation with putting one's affairs in order
  10. Dramatic changes in personality

If you suspect suicidal thoughts in yourself or anyone, seek professional help immediately. Go to a clinic, emergency room, psychiatric facility, or call a suicide hotline. Do not leave alone an individual who has expressed thoughts of suicide. In the United States, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

Medically reviewed by Marina Katz, MD; American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology

REFERENCE:

"Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults"
UpToDate.com


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Reviewed on 4/3/2017

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