Warning signs of suicide 

Sometimes there may be obvious signs that someone is at risk of attempting suicide. However, this is often not the case.

High-risk warning signs

A person may be at high risk of attempting suicide if they:

  • threaten to hurt or kill themselves
  • talk or write about death, dying or suicide
  • actively look for ways to kill themselves, such as stockpiling tablets

If the person has previously been diagnosed with a mental health condition, contact a member of their care team or the centre or clinic where they were being treated.

If you don't have these details, contact your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department and ask for the contact details of the nearest crisis resolution team (CRT). CRTs are teams of mental healthcare professionals, such as psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, who work with people experiencing severe psychological and emotional distress.

While waiting for help to arrive, remove any possible means of suicide from the person's immediate environment, such as medication, knives or other sharp objects, household chemicals, such as bleach and ropes or belts.

For more information about CRTs, the charity Rethink Mental Illness has a crisis teams factsheet you can download.

Other warning signs

A person may also be at risk of attempting suicide if they:

  • complain of feelings of hopelessness
  • have episodes of sudden rage and anger
  • act recklessly and engage in risky activities with an apparent lack of concern about the consequences
  • talk about feeling trapped, such as saying they can't see any way out of their current situation
  • self-harm – including misusing drugs or alcohol, or using more than they usually do
  • noticeably gain or lose weight due to a change in their appetite
  • become increasingly withdrawn from friends, family and society in general
  • appear anxious and agitated
  • are unable to sleep or they sleep all the time
  • have sudden mood swings – a sudden lift in mood after a period of depression could indicate they have made the decision to attempt suicide
  • talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
  • lose interest in most things, including their appearance
  • put their affairs in order, such as sorting out possessions or making a will

If you notice any of these warning signs in a friend, relative or loved one, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.

Also share your concerns with your GP or a member of their care team, if they are being treated for a mental health condition.

Read more about helping someone with suicidal feelings.

Page last reviewed: 09/02/2015

Next review due: 09/02/2017