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Depression and Suicide

Most people who die by suicide have a mental disorder. It may be a depressive or substance abuse disorder. Many of the warning signs of suicidal feelings are also signs of depression.

Warning signs of suicide

People at risk of suicide may have any of these:

  • Changes in eating and sleep habits

  • Loss of interest in usual activities

  • Pulling away from friends and family members

  • Acting out behaviors

  • Running away

  • Alcohol and drug use

  • Not caring about personal appearance

  • Excessive risk taking

  • Fixation on death and dying

  • Increased physical complaints linked to emotional distress, like stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness

  • Loss of interest in work, school, and community

  • Feelings of boredom

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Feelings of wanting to die

  • Lack of response to praise

A person is at risk if they show signs of plans to die by suicide. They may:

  • Give away favorite possessions and throw away important belongings

  • Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression

  • Express bizarre thoughts

  • Say "I want to kill myself"

  • Say "I'm going to commit suicide"

  • Say "I won't be a problem much longer"

  • Say "If anything happens to me, I want you to know ...."

  • Write 1 or more suicide notes

The warning signs of suicide may seem like other medical problems. Always talk with a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

What immediate action should you take?

Take threats of suicide as a cry for help. Always take statements of suicidal feelings, thoughts, behaviors, or plans very seriously. Any person who expresses thoughts of suicide needs help right away.

If someone is threatening suicide, immediately:

  • Take the person seriously.

  • Don't leave the person alone.

  • Involve other people. Contact friends and family members.

  • Express concern.

  • Listen attentively.

  • Ask direct questions.

  • Acknowledge the person's feelings.

  • Offer support.

  • Don't promise confidentiality.

  • Take the person to the nearest emergency room, contact a mental health professional, or call 911 right away.

  • Keep possibly harmful objects hidden.

  • Prepare for the person to need to stay in the hospital, if the healthcare provider advises.

Online Medical Reviewer: Amy Finke RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paul Ballas MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2020
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.