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How can I tell that someone is thinking of suicide?

Most people experiencing emotional pain show signs of distress

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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Most people experiencing emotional pain show signs of distress, but the only way to know if someone is thinking of suicide is to ask them.

Sometimes, people thinking of suicide may hide the signs so as not to be discovered. This may mean they don’t want help or that they are ashamed because they are not coping and don’t want anyone to know.

Could my friend be depressed?

If a friend or family member display the following signs, they could be suffering from depression.

  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Extreme sadness, hopelessness or irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Loss of energy
  • Negative comments about themselves

Signs that a person could be considering suicide

The following signs are common among people who are experiencing extreme emotional pain and may be considering taking their own life:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness and worthlessness
  • Thinking constantly about suicide
  • Sudden change from distress to saying they are ‘at peace’ or ‘okay’ 
  • Talking about going away or saying goodbye
  • Threatening suicide
  • Talking or writing about suicide
  • Putting personal affairs in order
  • Giving away the things they own

This is not a full list. Signs can be difficult to recognise. Some people may show no signs yet still feel suicidal, others may show many signs yet be coping okay.

Sometimes we don’t recognise the signs even though they may seem obvious when we look back. This is often because we were too close to the situation at the time. The fact that there are signs doesn’t always mean that someone is suicidal.

Spot the signs infograph from Pieta House

What can I do to help?

If you think someone may be suicidal, it is important to start a conversation about it with them. The only way to know for sure if someone is thinking of taking their own life is if they tell you themselves or you ask them directly. Find out what to do if a friend is suicidal here.

If it's an emergency, call 999 or 112 immediately to get them medical attention, or take them straight to A&E.

Some content thanks to the National Office for Suicide Prevention. Visit for information on mental health in Ireland, and how to support yourself and the people you love.

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Published Sep­tem­ber 9th2016
Tags suicide mental health wellbeing
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