15 Ways to Spot a Suicidal Person


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Page last updated: 20/10/2022

15 Ways to Spot a Suicidal Person

Hey Optimist Minds!

Have you ever been triggered by the news of someone’s suicide? According to the World Health Organisation, more than 700 000 people die by suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.

The stigma around mental health makes it hard for individuals to admit they’re not okay and reach out for help. In this video, we will describe some of the warning signs that a person is contemplating suicide.

This information can help you recognise when someone is suicidal so that you can intervene in time. Once you know that someone is thinking along these lines, help them consult a licensed mental health professional. We also recommend finding a support system for yourself whenever you’re handling a case like this.

Now, here are fifteen ways to spot a suicidal person.


Pay attention to their words. Do they sound hopeless?

Research has established hopelessness as a critical mediating variable between

depression and suicide intent and behaviour. You can tell that a person is feeling hopeless by paying close attention to what they say. For example, they may say things like, “there’s no point living like this”, or “nothing I do ever makes a difference”.


Check if they have frequent mood swings.

Does this person burst into tears multiple times a day? Or perhaps, they aren’t able to perform at work because they get emotional. You might even see some unexpected rage occasionally. People thinking of suicide tend to experience plenty of emotional dysregulation.


Notice if they’re withdrawing from others.

A prospective study found that social withdrawal discriminated between those who died by suicide and those who did not. See if this person is avoiding mixing with others. Maybe they’ve stopped showing up to meetings and gatherings.


Ask them if they’re getting enough sleep.

A growing body of research indicates that sleep disturbances are associated with suicidal ideation and behaviours. So, when you get a chance, bring up the topic of sleep. Find out if they’re getting enough rest and if they feel rested when they wake up.


Talk to them about their feelings.

If this person feels comfortable speaking to you, listen to them actively. You can ask them questions to learn more about how they are feeling. If they happen to mention anything about feeling guilty or ashamed, probe further to evaluate the intensity. Guilt and shame are well-known drivers of suicidal attempts.

15 Ways to Spot a Suicidal Person


Look at their recent social media posts.

It’s always a good idea to glance at the person’s recent activity on various social media platforms. It could be that they were dropping hints about their state of mind through emotionally loaded posts or comments. Again, look for signs of hopelessness, sadness, shame, and guilt.


Keep an eye out for any signs of self-harm.

For most people, before they get ready for the final step, they might do some kind of self-harm first. Have you seen this person with any cuts, bruises, or burns? Do they isolate themselves whenever they seem upset? They might try to keep it a secret, so this can be challenging to figure out.


Find out if they’ve gone through any trauma recently.

If the person is grieving the loss of a loved one, a relationship, or a career, it’s not unusual to contemplate death. You can try to find out by reaching out to their family or workplace. 


See if they’re showing any changes in their personality.

Someone naturally energetic and bubbly won’t seem the same if they’re thinking of killing themselves. You’ll probably notice a change in their appearance, energy levels, and speech. If they were enthusiastic about work or talkative earlier, they might seem dull and distracted now.


Find out if they have any chronic mental or physical illness.

Many health conditions can be so severe and debilitating that a person would prefer death over living with the disease. In physical ailments, this is more likely if the disease has no cure or the chances of survival are slim. Mental disorders associated with suicide include depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD.


Be alert for complaints about pain.

Depression and related mental health conditions aren’t the only causes of suicidal thoughts. Even if someone is in excruciating pain, they might think of death as an escape for relief. Watch out for statements like, “I can’t deal with this pain anymore” or “it hurts so much I’d rather die”.


Ask them directly.

Usually, the best way to find out if someone is suicidal is to ask them upfront. You won’t be encouraging them or pushing them to do it if you mention suicide. Many people think that’s the case, so they hesitate to be direct. Instead, it’s best to bring them to a safe space and talk about it openly.


Do a risk assessment.

Find out how much they have thought about it. Is it just an idea they toy with as a coping mechanism? Or do they have a specific plan for how they will execute it? Ask them if they’ve thought of a date, time, place, and method. The more they’ve thought about it in detail, the higher the risk of an actual attempt.


Watch out for a sudden calmness.

When someone has mentally decided that they no longer want to live, there will be a sudden shift in temperament. It’ll seem like they don’t care anymore about what happens because they’ve given up entirely. As a result, they may look a lot calmer than is appropriate.


Observe if they’re making preparations.

Is this person making any arrangements or tying loose ends? Maybe they’ve started getting their affairs in order with the help of a lawyer. Or they might try to gain access to lethal objects like a gun or prescription pills.

Now that you know about these signs, do you think someone you know might be suicidal? Are there any other signs that you’re familiar with? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comment section. We could all benefit from your sharing.

A link for further reading and the studies & references used in the making of this video are mentioned in the description below.

Thanks for visiting optimist minds, take care. Until next time.