Signs and Symptoms

The behaviours listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will

If these warning signs apply to you or someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behaviour is new or has increased recently.

1.  ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase their risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts.

2. KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.

3.BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests that acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.

4.HELP THEM CONNECT: Save the NI Lifeline’s CRISIS No: 0808 808 8000 in your phone, so it’s there when you need it. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend or mental health professional / counsellor.

5.STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person

Risk Factors

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behaviour is complex, and there is no single cause. Many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. But people most at risk tend to share specific characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide are:

  • A prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Chronic pain
  • Having recently been released from prison or jail
  • Being exposed to others' suicidal behaviour, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities

Many people have some of these risk factors but do not attempt suicide. It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.

Often, family and friends are the first to recognise the warning signs of suicide and can be the first step toward helping an at-risk individual find treatment with someone who specialises in treating suicidal ideation. 

Suicide is complex. Treatments and therapies for people with suicidal thoughts or actions will vary with age, gender, physical and mental well-being, and with individual experiences.

Brief Interventions
  • Safety Planning: personalised safety planning has been shown to help reduce suicidal thoughts and actions. Patients/ clients work with a caregiver to develop a plan that describes ways to limit access to lethal means such as pills, or poisons. The plan also lists coping strategies and people and resources that can help in a crisis.
  • Follow-up phone calls: Research has shown that when a person at risk receives further screening and a series of supportive phone calls their risk of suicide goes down..