10 Warning Signs of Suicide and How to Help

Teenager looking out window

Studies suggest that the majority of people who die from suicide give warning signs beforehand. And while teen suicides tend to peak around certain times and events of the year, the reality is that it can occur at any time.

We all – as parents, friends, and family and community members – need to be looking for the warning signs because they can often go unrecognized.

I quote this statistic a lot in the Surviving the Teens Suicide Prevention Program that I teach, because it is an impactful one. In a typical classroom of 30 students, three will have already attempted suicide. It’s an alarming number and it is very real. Here are 10 warning signs of suicide, to give you an idea of what to look for:

10 Warning Signs of Suicide:

  1. Visiting, calling or texting people to say goodbye.
  2. Looking for ways to die, such as researching for methods or means on the internet or trying to buy guns, ropes, pills or knives.
  3. Making direct or indirect statements about death, suicide, or suicide ideation/plan.
  4. Writing about death, suicide or dying when this is out of the ordinary.
  5. Sudden and extreme changes in mood or behaviors (e.g. changes in routine, appearance, grooming habits).
  6. Increased substance abuse.
  7. Excessive or dangerous risk-taking.
  8. Seeking revenge for a real or imagined victimization or rejection.
  9. Signs of severe depression or any of the following:
    • Insomnia or sleeping too much.
    • Intense anxiety or panic attacks.
    • Irritability or agitation.
    • Rage or uncontrolled anger.
    • Withdrawal or isolation.
    • Losing interest in things.
    • Lost ability to experience pleasure.
  10. Expression of any of these thoughts or feelings:
    • Trapped or desperate to escape an intolerable situation.
    • Humiliation.
    • Being a burden to others.
    • Worthlessness.
    • Hopelessness.
    • Purposelessness or having no reason to live.

Please take any of the above warnings signs seriously. Talk to your teen about it in a non-threatening way. If you need ideas, we have tips on our website for speaking to someone who is troubled, depressed or suicidal.

I think it’s important to note that while suicide in teens happens more frequently than it does in younger children, it can still happen. Young children are capable of having suicidal thoughts and can act upon them. If you notice that your child is exhibiting some of the above warning signs, please get help.

Ways you can help:

  • Please take your teen to see a doctor or call a crisis line volunteer at 1-800-273-TALK. If he or she refuses help, saying things like, “”I love you and don’t want to lose you,” or “Please do this for me,” or “ A professional will be able to help us work this out,” may persuade your child to seek help with you.
  • Call an Ohio County Crisis number:
    o Hamilton County: (513) 281- CARE (2273)
    o Clermont County: (513) 528-SAVE (7283)
    o Butler County: 1-844-4CRISIS
    o Hamilton/West Chester: 513-894-7002
    o Middletown: 513-424-5498
    o Oxford/Hamilton: 513-523-4146
    o Warren/Clinton Counties: 1-877-695-NEED(6333)
  • Refer to MindPeace for a complete list of mental health community resources. Or this PDF which contains a comprehensive list of all mental health agencies in Hamilton County.
  • If you believe your teen is in immediate danger or is feeling like they may hurt themselves, then take your child to an emergency room. You can also call 911 if you’re unable to go with your child.
  • You can also call our Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC). The staff can help direct you to the mental health services that best meets your need.
  • Review the Youth Suicide Prevention Tips for Parents from our Surviving the Teens Program.
Cathy Strunk, RN, MSN

About the Author: Cathy Strunk, RN, MSN

Cathy Strunk, MSN, RN, is a suicide prevention expert and liaison, and developed the Steps to LAST tips as a part of the Surviving the Teens/Suicide Prevention Program.

Write a comment

Your data will be safe! Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person. Required fields marked as *

Comments

  1. Lisa Brackmann February 04, 22:30
    Hi Cathy, A friend of mine was in a Cincinnati high school today when the class she was waiting for came in, but they were very very quiet. When she asked why, they told her that they had met with teachers/administrators and were told NOT to play a newer game on facebook which has suicide as the main "topic". She was appalled as I am. Do you know anything about this "game?" The students were told that two high school students have already died from playing this "game." It would be beneficial to the community to know about this "game." I'm sure FB would take it off if they knew about it. Thank you.
    • Kate Setter
      Kate Setter February 05, 14:59
      Hi Lisa - I just spoke to Cathy and her understanding is that the group on facebook has been taken down. There are several groups in our community that are coming together to further address the issue.
  2. Nancy Sand February 05, 09:56
    These signs cover all areas of a moody teenager that they may have one on Monday, and a different one on Friday with happy moods in between. We lost our 15 year 3 years ago and looking back none of this helps!
    • Cathy Strunk, RN, MSN
      Cathy Strunk, RN, MSN Author February 06, 18:57
      Dear Nancy – We received the comment you made today on our blog post about suicide warning signs. Thank you for taking the time to leave your message. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved daughter. I know how incredibly painful it is to lose a child and have made it my life's mission to prevent tragedies like this from happening. Teen suicide is a complex issue and we know that many teens hide their thoughts and feelings from the people around them – even the people who love them the most. I actually address this point in my Surviving the Teens program through "Steps to LAST to Help Oneself." (http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/service/s/surviving-teens/Dealing-with-Depression/) I encourage troubled teens to "Let someone know what's troubling them" because they cannot expect people to read their minds or take hints. Too frequently people who are in pain do not reach out and tell others how they are feeling and their plans. I appreciate hearing your feedback and encourage you to visit our website to see how this topic is more fully addressed. Please let us know if you have any suggestions about how we can improve our message to teens and their families. Cathy
  3. Jt February 18, 21:25
    Is there a number for Warren county?
    • Rachel Camper
      Rachel Camper February 20, 06:49
      Hi Jt, The Warren/Clinton County Crisis Line is: 1-877-695-NEED(6333). Here's their website as well: http://www.mhrsonline.org/partners-and-resources/suicide_prevention_coalition-4/