How to detect signs someone is suicidal

There are not many topics that provoke as much fear and anxiousness than that of suicide. When you hear people talking about someone who committed suicide or you are aware of someone who is showing signs of being suicidal, it can leave you with feelings of heartache and sadness if you are close to such a person, and also with fear.


Unfortunately, we can’t let fear and sadness over a dark and difficult issue keep us from being aware; especially if a friend or family member is suffering from this mental health ‘condition’. 

It is a very real, terrible reality and there are actions that need to be engaged in, acted on, the moment when suicide is on the table.

It might not be us who deals with a person who is suicidal, but if it is, we need to be a shoulder to lean on, to calmly listen; these are just the basic steps to restore hope to the hopeless.

What Is Suicide?

Suicide is the killing of one’s own physical body; it is the intentional ending of one’s life. At one time, suicide was referred to as “self-murder”. 

Most people who commit suicide usually tell someone of their plans; they give some kind of warning sign.

People today are filled with lost hope and despair, so it stands to reason that over 800 000 people in the USA attempt suicide every year. 

Usually friends, family, and work colleagues can spot the warning signs and many times, they feel helpless as to how to deal with someone who is deeply depressed and suicidal.

There is hope that it is a treatable mental disorder. 

Recent research from the CDC shows that people aged 18 to 25 are the most likely to have suicidal thoughts on a regular basis, with more than 7 percent of people in this age group admitting that they regularly contemplate taking their own lives.

Keep in mind that’s more than twice the rate for adults aged 50 or older—even though older people tend to struggle with more serious physical health conditions, such as osteoarthritis and dementia.

Gender Disparities

While females are far more likely to have thoughts about committing suicide and feel a desire to end their lives, males tend to be far more successful in the act of suicide. Research from the CDC shows that young men take their lives at roughly four times the rate of young women.

Overall, young men account for nearly four in every five deaths associated with suicide. Today, suicide is considered the seventh-highest cause of death among males. As for young women, it’s the fourteenth-leading cause of death.

These are some signs and feelings that get voiced that can signify that someone is suicidal and depressed – they need help.

  • “I’m of no use to anybody”
  • Life just isn’t worth living
  • Everyone would just be better without me
  • Next time, I’ll do a proper job
  • You can have my car or my house when I’m gone
  • Don’t worry; I won’t be around anymore in any case
  • You’ll be sorry when I’m no longer here
  • Don’t worry; I won’t be in your way for much longer
  • I’m just a burden to you
  • I can’t make things better
  • I’m just better off dead
  • Nobody understands me. Nobody cares or feels the way I do
  • There’s no way out for me
  • You’re just better off without me”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, repeated and frequent use of drugs or alcohol could be a sign that they are trying to compensate for a growing mental health problem.

They may be using these substances to overcome serious issues with anxiety, depression, or something else.

How do you recognize this serious sadness and depression?

  1. The person is always in a sad, depressed kind of mood – got the blues
  2. They can’t sleep properly, either sleeping too little or too much
  3. Their weight and appetite have changed
  4. They move and speak with a kind of slowness or unusual speed
  5. They have lost interest in their usual activities that used to give them pleasure
  6. They withdraw from friends and family
  7. They have lost their energy and spark
  8. They battle to think and concentrate, they are indecisive
  9. They suffer from feelings of guilt, self-reproach or worthlessness
  10. They think of death and wish to be dead
  11. Sometimes they stop caring about their physical appearance
  12. These aren’t people who are just going through a rough patch. 
  13. These are people who suffer for weeks and months on end. 

Do something!

You need to find out from your family or friend who is suicidal why they are thinking that way; you need to be direct, being supportive and non-judgmental. 

If you believe they are in danger, stay with them if you can; don’t leave a suicidal person on their own.

You need to call 911 or contact a crisis hotline National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (USA) or 999 (UK) for an ambulance or go straight to A&E.  Or ask someone else to call 999 or take you to A&E, and you need to contact their friends or family.

This is no matter to keep secret; it is not up to you to try and keep the suicidal person safe on your own. 

If they are not seeing a mental health therapist or counselor, perhaps you can arrange for the person to see a counselor. If they are under counseling already, you need to make the counselor aware of the situation.

By doing your part when you know your friend or family member is suicidal, you will be part of a chapter of someone’s life who one day might be able to say their story did not have a sad ending.

The pain and anguish caused by suicide within a family, can be devastating. Suicide by a loved one creates a hole in the lives of every family member that’s simply cataclysmic in nature.  

The emotional toll of a suicide (or even an attempt) in a family can result in family members seeking counselling for years afterwards.

Resources and References

Samaritans – for everyone 
Call 116 123 


Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men 
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day 
Visit the webchat page


Papyrus – for people under 35 
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm 
Text 07786 209697 


Childline – for children and young people under 19 
Call 0800 1111 – the number won't show up on your phone bill


The Silver Line – for older people 
Call 0800 4 70 80 90

If you find it difficult to talk to someone you know, you could:

  • call your GP – ask for an emergency appointment
  • call 111 out of hours – they will help you find the support and help you need
  • contact your mental health crisis team – if you have one


  • […] UCL and the Support After Suicide Partnership developed a short guide to help people feel more comfortable about reaching out to someone bereaved by suicide: […]

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