At least seventy percent of all people committing suicide give some clue about their intentions before they make an attempt. However, their clues may be disguised. These facts make it imperative to recognize the warning signs that indicate when a person may be suicidal.

Since the topic of suicide is a taboo in our society, it is riddled with myths and falsities. For example, some myths may include:


MYTH: “You must be crazy to even think about suicide.”

FACT: Most people have thought of suicide at one time or another. Suicides and suicide attempts are often made by intelligent, temporarily confused people in the midst of a crisis.

MYTH: “Once a person has made a suicide attempt, that person is unlikely to make another.”

FACT: The opposite is often true. Persons that have made previous suicide attempts may be at a higher risk of committing suicide.

MYTH: “If a person is seriously considering suicide, there is nothing you can do.”

FACT: Most suicidal crises are based on unclear thinking of a relatively short duration. This period of crisis can be overcome by helping the person confront his or her problems.

Key Links
Jed Foundation
(National Institute of Mental Health)
Suicide: Frequently Asked Questions (National Institute of Mental Health)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Suicide among LGBTQ Youth: Risks & Prevention

MYTH: “Talking about suicide may give someone an idea.”

FACT: A vulnerable person will already have had the suicidal thought, so talking about suicide may serve as a way of expressing your concern. It will also allow the person to feel less lonely, perhaps even relieved.

MYTH: “Suicide is the act of someone who is mentally ill.”

FACT: Suicide notes often reveal that these are not mentally ill, but rather unhappy people.

MYTH: “Suicides happen without warning.”

FACT: Suicidal people reveal their intentions more often than not.

To recognize someone’s potential to commit suicide is not as difficult as it sounds. There are, in fact, a number of behavioral and verbal signs that may be indicators of suicide risk. An individual often makes many attempts to seek help before committing the act.

The most obvious signs of impending suicide risk are verbal clues. These may consist of the person making very negative statements about life, the world, or themselves. Examples of some of these statements might be:

  • “I wish I were dead”
  • “I don’t want to live”
  • “It’s just not worth it anymore”
  • “I just don’t see any way out of this”

When a person gives verbal signs such as these, the signs should be taken seriously as requests for help. These clues are indicators that the person MAY be suicidal. However, all human beings are unique individuals, so the only way to interpret how a person is feeling is to talk to him or her.

Behavioral changes are another source of clues. The most obvious behavioral signs of a person at risk are changes in the persons eating and or sleeping habits, or deviations from his or her normal patterns of activity. Other signs include: withdrawal from friends, inability to sleep, decreased activity level, decreased socializing, and an unwillingness to go about normal daily activities. Behavioral changes such as these can be indicators of depression, and therefore suicide potential. Here is a list of behaviors to be concerned about:

  • Failure in school that is not consistent with the persons ability.
  • Delusions thinking.
  • Mood swings, outbursts of anger.
  • Compulsive behavior.
  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Destructive behavior.
  • Neglecting personal appearance.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Complaints about being misunderstood.
  • Excessive fantasizing and or daydreaming.
  • Frequent conflicts with others.

This list is only partial, but it gives you a general idea of what to look for.

A person who begins to order all of his or her personal and business affairs may be in an initial phase of planning suicide. Things like returning borrowed items, signing over papers to family, and drafting a will are indicators that the person is organizing his or her life.

It is important to understand the behaviors that suggest suicide risk, but the presence of these types of behavior changes does not automatically mean that the person is suicidal. Just as it is necessary to speak to an individual who displays verbal clues, to determine suicide risk from behavioral changes requires communication. If the individual does show indications of suicide potential, professional help should be strongly recommended.