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Suicide Warning Signs and Risk Factors

People may not show any signs of the intent to kill themselves before they commit suicide. But there are behaviors that may indicate a person is at risk for killing themselves, and it is important to be aware of warning signs and risk factors. If you notice any warning signs for suicide, starting a conversation with the person may save their life.

Learn to recognize the warning signs:

  • Hopelessness; feeling like there is no way out
  • Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
  • Feeling like there is no reason to live
  • Rage or anger
  • Engaging in risky activities
  • Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

The presence of any of the following signs requires immediate attention:

  • Thinking about hurting or killing themselves
  • Reading or seeking infomtion on ways to die
  • Talking about death, dying, or suicide
  • Showing hopelessness or expressing that they have no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped, being in unbearable pain, or a burden to others
  • Self-destructive or risk taking behavior, especially when it involves alcohol, drugs, or weapons
  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship(s)
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

Additional Risk Factors For American Indian/Alaska Native People

  • A history of interpersonal violence/abuse
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of stigma related to mental health, substance abuse disorders, or suicidal thoughts
  • Unemployment
  • Alcohol misuse/abuse
  • Economic instability and social disintegration
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Isolation on reservations, feeling cut off from other people
  • Local epidemics of suicide (called "Suicide Clusters")