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What are the signs a person is suicidal or wants to commit suicide?

Updated on August 8, 2012

Several years ago I wrote an article based on my own experiences called 'Do you really want to commit suicide?'. Never could I have guessed that I would spend the next three years being inundated with comments from desperate and suicidal people pleading for advice and for help, or simply stating they still wanted to die in spite of what I had written about my own experiences. This shocked me to the core, and somehow I could not let it go, repeatedly trying to talk these people out of killing themselves, and often exchanging comments with them over many weeks. Although there were many people who seemed quite determined to commit suicide whatever I said, I still kept replying to all the comments I received. 'Why?' you might ask, well the answer is that I survived my own suicide attempt many years ago, and although I went on to experience some unbelievable horrors in my life, I kept on surviving. To this day I am glad I did as life improved dramatically, and I would not want to have missed out on what I have in my life today by dying prematurely. Likewise I did not want others to miss out on a great future they had not anticipated due to their circumstances at a low point in their lives.

Another reason I kept on replying was because once in a while I would get a comment from a person stating that after reading my story, 'I had saved their life that day'. This kind of achievement is not one I take lightly, and it certainly makes me feel I have in some small way justified my place on this earth.

In the last few weeks I finally found answering the daily comments became too stressful for me. Some people won't accept advice or act on it, and I found myself repeating the same advice again and again, and running out of ideas for what else I could say to those who were quite determined not to consider ways they could help themselves or turn their own lives around. I knew from first hand experience that life can feel so hopeless that you do just want to give up, at the same time as I also knew that life can take a complete turn for the better if the person struggles on through the awful times. With great difficulty I took the decision to turn off the option to comment on that article, because if I hadn't I was in danger of making myself quite ill with the responsibility of replying to comments (I still get private emails from suicidal individuals as it is).

I decided to write this article because I realised that I am not the only one who can offer some kind of support to a suicidal person, family member or friend. Much of the time the trouble is that the average person doesn't know what to look for as a sign of a person being suicidal. It isn't always obvious, and all too often the family and friends find out too late that their loved one was suicidal for whatever the reason.

The reasons a person becomes suicidal vary enormously, it may be because they are a youngster being bullied at school, or they have broken up with their first true love. It could be someone who feels that for whatever reason they have let their family down or been a failure to them. It can be as a result of a divorce, a bereavement or financial pressures. Perhaps it is because of the stress of exams, fear of failure or weight issues. Maybe it is due to homelessness, drug addiction or alcohol abuse. The reasons are endless, but what I am sure of is that life can change and can improve, but too many give up, firmly believing there is no 'light at the end of the tunnel' for them.

The Basic Signs of a Potentially Suicidal Person

These are some of the basic signs to look for in a person you suspect may be suicidal. This is not a comprehensive list, but it might help you to prevent a person you know from killing themselves before they get support from a family member or friend. Be especially aware of these signs at significant times of year such as Christmas or Thanksgiving (when they may feel even more alone or isolated as everyone around them is jovial and happy), or times significant to them personally, such as anniversaries, birthdays etc.

The person may become irritable, short tempered or nervous. You will notice this when you spend time around them and you should see it as a warning sign.

You might find the potentially suicidal person seems to 'put themselves down' a lot. This means they will verbally criticize themselves, maybe their appearance, personality or usefulness. They will find it difficult to accept a compliment without 'rebutting' it.

The individual may well become withdrawn and lose touch with family and friends, even avoiding going out and socialising with their former friends and acquaintances.

They often 'let themselves go'. In other words they might lose any interest in bathing, changing into clean clothes, shaving, having haircuts etc.

On occasion the person might become violent. This can be as a result of inner frustrations at how they are feeling, and even youngsters are known to assault their parents when feeling this way.

Children being bullied may refuse to go to school, or may skip school. Often they will spend increasing amounts of time in their rooms, and their school results / reports will show a downturn.

Adults may organise their effects and final wishes, e.g. writing their wills, talking about whether they want to be buried or cremated, selling valuable assets etc.

They may show a loss of weight or appetite.

Giving away personal possessions they previously treasured to close friends and family is another behavioral trait exhibited by suicidal individuals.

Making peace with people they had fallen out with in the past happens frequently with suicidal people.

Struggling with sleeping patterns, the suicidal person may sleep more or less than normal.

They might make alarming statements like 'I am better off dead', 'life isn't worth living' or 'you are better off without me'.


Do not be fooled by a person who you suspected was suicidal suddenly becoming upbeat and cheerful. This does not necessarily mean they are 'on the mend', and can mean the exact opposite, i.e. they have made a decision to end their life and are just waiting until their chosen time to do it. You can act now and give them the support and love they need to keep going, and help them to see that their life can turn around for the better if they just work through their current problems with your help (and /or professional support). Good luck and I sincerely hope this article helps save many more lives.


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