Signs Someone You Know Is Contemplating Suicide (and What to Do About It)

If someone you love lives with depression, they may be at a higher risk of suicide. Fortunately, knowing the warning signs — and the actions you should take in response to these signs — can help you keep your loved ones safe from harm.

What triggers someone to contemplate suicide?

A woman sits looking downward.

Depression is a very common cause of suicide. | Tommaso79/iStock/Getty Images Plus

It’s hard for professionals to identify exactly why people commit suicide, says Harvard Health Publications. Though there aren’t always clear warning signs, there are specific things that could prompt someone to contemplate and even attempt suicide. Recent loss of a loved one, episodes of depression, and personal stress or major life changes can all bring about suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Who is most likely to become suicidal?

Man comforting his sad mourning friend.

Men are more likely to commit suicide than women. | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, men are more likely to die by suicide, though women are more likely to attempt it. American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of suicide among U.S. ethnic groups. Overall, depression, family history of suicide, exposure to suicidal behavior, and previous suicide attempts increase a person’s risk of attempting suicide.

Signs someone is depressed

Sad woman looking down through a car window.

If a friend or family member is contemplating suicide, you might be able to tell based on some common signs. | Antonio Guillem/iStock/Getty Images

If someone close to you begins showing signs of depression, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are thinking about suicide. However, you can still act as a vital support system for them as they learn to cope with their mental health. Some common signs of depression include:

  • Showing less interest in normal activities and socializing
  • Appearing to have less energy
  • Acting hopeless
  • Having trouble processing and expressing emotions
  • Eating less (or more) than usual
  • Obsessing over death and dying

Signs someone is contemplating suicide

Businesswoman using mobile phone.

You might notice small changes in their personality and lifestyle. | Diego Cervo/iStock/Getty Images

Knowing the signs someone is in danger of hurting themselves can help you save a life, says the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Warning signs of suicide include:

  • Talking about feeling trapped, having no reason to live, or killing oneself
  • Acting recklessly
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Experiencing aggression, irritability, and extreme sadness or humiliation

If you fear someone you love is in danger, ask for help. Talk to a mental health professional, or call or text a crisis hotline. All communications with these organizations are confidential.

How to care for someone with depression

Desperate woman getting support.

Understanding their feelings is a good first step. | Oneinchpunch/iStock/Getty Images

Someone who is depressed will not always talk about their feelings or ask for help in dealing with their emotions. HuffPost suggests reaching out to your loved one, listening, and doing whatever you can to show your friend or loved one you care about them. Spend time with them and make them feel safe, but also encourage them to seek professional help. You can be an important part of their support system, but you cannot be their only means of support.

How to talk to someone contemplating suicide

A woman speaks while the other is drinking.

Give them a shoulder to lean on and a helping hand. | Lorenzo Antonucci/iStock/Getty Images

There are a few important things you should never say to someone with depression. There is also a specific way to talk with someone contemplating suicide, in addition to getting them professional help. Don’t argue with them or show them you are frustrated or upset. The same way it’s essential to listen to a depressed friend, listening to someone considering suicide is one of the most important things you can do to provide immediate support in times of crisis.

How to help a friend in crisis

A woman leans on a balcony.

It will be a very trying time, but there is support for those who need help. | Rawpixel Ltd/iStock/Getty Images

The most important thing you can do for someone in immediate crisis is to listen to what they have to say and take them seriously, says the American Psychological Association. If they’re talking about hurting themselves, they’re likely not joking. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can connect you with local crisis centers to make sure your friend or loved one gets the help and support they need. If someone is in immediate danger of hurting themselves or someone else, make sure they get urgent care.