Suicide: Acute Warning Signs

Suicide: Acute Warning Signs

Acute Warning Signs of Suicidality

  • Verbal
    • Preoccupation with themes of death or suicide
    • Expressions of unworthiness or failure
    • Lack of interest or hope for the future
    • Statements of suicidal plan or intent to carry it out
  • Behavioral
    • Giving away cherished possessions or making a will
    • Canceling future plans as if there will be no future for the person
    • Stockpiling pills or acquiring a weapon
    • Sending cryptic emails that suggest wish to harm self, feelings of hopelessness

Sometimes out of a cry for help or ambivalence about acting on suicidal thoughts, indirect statements will be made:

  • Hopelessness
    • “I’m not sure any of this is worth it anymore.”
  • Wishes for Escape
    • “I’d like this all to go away.”
  • Death Allusions
    • “I wish I could sleep and never wake up.”
  • Burdening Others
    • “It would be better for everyone if I were gone.”
  • Not  Belonging
    • “No one would miss me anyway.”

Acute Risk Factors
Risk for self harm increases when the above warning signs and risk factors below are both present.

  • Expression of specific plans with active intent to harm self
  • Prior suicide attempts
  • Recent discharge from a psychiatric hospitalization
  • Chronic feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thinking

Protective Factors

  •  Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  •  Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
  •  Family and community support
  •  Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  •  Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent handling of disputes
  •  Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation instincts