Published on September 13, 2019

Suicide Warning Signs and Risk Factors Everyone Should Know

The warning signs before suicide aren’t always clear, nor are they universal or from a single cause. Still, across the board, mental health experts say certain behaviors shouldn’t be ignored.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is now the 10th most common cause of death in the United States, and in Michigan alone, death by suicide has increased 25 percent since 1999,” said Kathy Dollard, Psy.D., L.P., director of behavioral health at MidMichigan Health. “Paying attention to warning signs and certain behaviors in individuals can be key to getting them the support and help that they need.”

Signals that may indicate someone is in need of help can include both verbal signs and behavioral cues. Verbal signs may be talking about wanting to die or kill oneself; declarations of feeling trapped or having nothing to live for; talking about great guilt or unbearable pain; insistence of being a burden to others; speaking of revenge; lack of communication or noticeable withdrawal.

Behavioral cues that may signal an individual is in trouble can include acting anxious, agitated or restless; increased use of alcohol or drugs; sleeping too little or too much; suggestive actions, such as online searches or obtaining a gun; giving away possessions or making visits to say goodbye; reckless conduct or extreme mood swings.

“Another risk factor is mental disorders, especially depression or other mood disorders,” said Dollard. “In addition, significant loss, whether it is related to a job, relationship, death or finances, is another thing to watch for. So is a history of trauma or abuse, prolonged stress, absence of a support system and prior suicide attempts.”

If you think someone is in danger of committing suicide, don’t leave them alone; call 911 immediately. And if you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255).

MidMichigan Health offers a variety of behavioral health programs, including psychiatric inpatient care, outpatient care and office-based care. Those interested in learning more may visit www.midmichigan.org/mentalhealth.

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