Suicide: Warning Signs & How to help

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Did You Know?

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages. About 45,000 Americans die each year by suicide.

Studies about suicide have shown that females attempt suicide three times more often than do males and are more likely to express suicidal thoughts than do males. Males, however, are four times more likely than females to die by suicide. In terms of age, young adults (ages 18-29 years) more frequently have suicidal thoughts and plan/attempt suicide than do older adults (ages 30 years and older). Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15-24 year old Americans.

Most people who die by suicide exhibit one or more warning signs. It is important to remember though that, if an individual presents a warning sign, it does not automatically mean that he/she will attempt to hurt themselves but it should be responded to in a serious and thoughtful manner. Change in behavior or presence of entirely new behaviors becomes a significant concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change.

Warning signs


·      About wanting to die or kill themselves

·      Feeling trapped

·      Experiencing unbearable pain

·      Having no reason to live or feeling hopeless

·      Being a burden to others

·      Complaints about physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches and fatigue


·      Increased use of alcohol or drugs

·      Looking for ways to kill themselves like searching online or buying a gun

·      Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

·      Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly

·      Change in eating and sleeping habits

·      Giving away prized possessions

·      Aggression, violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away

·      Unusual neglect of personal appearance

·      Withdrawing or isolating themselves

·      Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

·      Difficulty concentrating or decline in quality of school work

·      Loss of interest in pleasurable activities


•       Extreme mood swings

•       Depression

•       Loss of interest

•       Rage

•       Irritability

•       Humiliation

•       Anxiety

•       Persistent boredom


How can I help?

If you think someone is suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Encourage the individual to seek immediate help from his/her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency department, or you should call 911. You also should eliminate access to any potential tools used for suicide, including firearms and medication.

How to talk with someone who may present warning signs:

·      Talk in a calm and non-accusatory manner

·      Let them know you care

·      Convey how important they are to you

·      Focus on concern for their well being

·      Make statements that convey you have empathy for their stress

·      Encourage seeking professional help

·      Reassure them that they will not feel like this forever by utilizing appropriate help

If your child has a suicidal friend:

·      Tell your child that if a friend says they are going to hurt/kill themselves, they should inform a trusted adult (e.g., parent, school nurse, guidance counselor) to get professional help.

·      Assure your child that it is not their responsibility to decide if their friend’s threat is credible.

Immediate prevention help:

·      National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK (8255)):

·      The Trevor Project, national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth (1-866-488-7386):

·      SOS- Signs of Suicide Prevention Program. A nationally (USA) recognized program designed for middle and high school-age students. The program teaches students how to identify the symptoms of depression and suicidality in themselves or their friends.

·      safeTALK- Suicide Awareness for Everyone. This 3 hour workshop raises awareness of warning signs indicating risk of suicide. The workshop emphasizes the importance of recognizing the signs, communicating with the person at risk and getting help or resources for the person at risk.

Other Helpful Links:


Dr. Terracciano is a clinical psychologist at Thinking Tree Psychology.  She has expertise in evaluations of neurodevelopmental presentations, such as ADHD and learning disorders.  She also specializes in assessing for the presence of behavioral and emotional challenges.  Additionally, Dr. Terracciano is a full-time faculty member at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital, where she currently serves as the Inpatient Psychology Coordinator.