Warning signs for suicide

It’s quite common for young people to go through the ups and downs of adolescence and to feel strong emotions. But for some young people, the downs can be so intense and extreme that they think about taking their own life.

So how do you figure out what’s within a ‘normal range’ and when you should be concerned?

Research shows that there are some key suicide warning signs to be aware of. Warning signs are behavioural changes, thoughts or feelings that can provide 'clues' or 'red flags' about your young person’s risk of suicide.

Some warning signs may be relatively easy to pick up, such as when a young person talks about death or says they want to die.

Other signs are harder to spot – if your young person is trying to hide their feelings and emotions from family or friends, you’ll need to watch out for changes in their behaviour.

You’re really looking for dramatic changes in behaviour and mood over a relatively short period of time:

  1. Watch for dramatic changes in behaviour
  2. Monitor changes
  3. Ask questions

Common warning signs

  • A sense of hopelessness or no hope for the future.
  • Isolation or feeling alone – “No one understands me”.
  • Aggressiveness and irritability – “Leave me alone”.
  • Possessing lethal means – e.g. medication, sharp objects, weapons.
  • Negative view of self – “I am worthless”.
  • Drastic changes in mood and behaviour.
  • Frequently talking or writing about death – “If I died, would you miss me?”
  • Self-harming behaviours like cutting.
  • Engaging in 'risky' behaviours – “I’ll try anything, I’m not afraid to die".
  • Making funeral arrangements.
  • Giving things away like clothes or expensive gifts – “When I am gone, I want you to have this”.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Feeling like a burden to others – “You would be better off without me”.
  • Making suicide threats – “Sometimes I feel like I just want to die”.
Warning signs

Listening and talking

One way to understand how your young person is feeling is by listening to how they talk to their mates online. Watch what they may be saying on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you suspect something’s wrong, talk to them about it.

Rather, talking things through gives your young person a chance to open up and share what they’re going through, and allows you to support them.

For more information on warning signs in young people, check out this American resource compiled by suicide prevention specialists.

Get immediate support

If you’re concerned that your young person might attempt suicide, it’s important to act immediately. Call your doctor, mental health crisis service, or go with them to your local hospital’s emergency department. In an emergency, call triple zero (000).

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