Warning signs for suicide and self-harm
If you're worried that someone is thinking about taking their own life, it's important to talk to them. Be direct and kind. Suicide can be prevented if we're aware of warning signs, and follow simple steps to get help. People usually don't want to end their life. They want the pain to stop. Showing someone you care can make a difference. Reach out and ask if they're OK.
When people are in a crisis and can't see the way out, they may have suicidal thoughts to end their pain. Helping someone now means they can stay safe and get help. Usually, the crisis will pass and they can recover.
If you're worried about someone having suicidal thoughts, there are things you need to do to help them. Act immediately.
- Be direct, ask them 'Are you thinking about suicide?'
- Don't be afraid to ask. It shows that you care.
- Asking decreases risk - it shows someone is willing to talk about it.
- Most people thinking about suicide want to live. They need someone to help.
2. Listen and stay
- Listen to the person you're worried about. It helps them to talk.
- Take what they say seriously.
- Don't leave them alone.
- Check their safety. Make sure there is nothing they can use to harm themselves (such as a weapon, car, drugs, medicines).
3. Get help
If someone's life is in danger:
- Call Emergency on 000
- Call Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Or take them straight to Emergency at a hospital
- If you can get in immediately, see a GP or psychologist.
Even if danger is not immediate, the person needs support for the problems that made them feel this way. Encourage them to get help and to seek support and more information.
4. Follow up
- Make sure you follow up and check on the person often.
- Showing that you care can make a difference.
- Make sure the right professional people are aware of what's going on.
- You don’t have to take on all of this responsibility by yourself.
Sometimes life can be very hard. Things happen to us that make us feel overwhelmed and make it hard to cope. Some people might think about suicide, but don't do anything to harm themselves. Other people might think about suicide as the only way to stop the distressing feelings and problems. There is a sense of isolation and hopelessness as they don't think they can get support to get through it. They usually don’t want to die. They just want the pain to stop.
Any tough time where we feel there's no way out can trigger suicidal thoughts.
When people are thinking about ending their own life, there are sometimes signs you may notice. They may be feeling distraught and can’t see the way out. If you can stop them from taking their own life at this crisis point, then once the crisis passes they will be able to recover.
Be aware of subtle changes in behaviour
Recognising these warning signs and signals can help prevent suicide. Suicide warning signs might be a cry for help.
Some people talk about their thoughts of self-harm. They might be mentioning things about death, dying or suicide. Others don’t talk about it.
Suicide risk warning signs
They might be feeling:
- like there's no way out of their problems
- angry and irritable
- that there's no reason for living.
There might be changes in the way they're behaving such as:
- sleep changes (too much or too little)
- withdrawing from family and friends
- loss of interest in things
- changes in eating
- irritability, being moody or easily upset
- self-harming (e.g. cutting)
- putting affairs in order, giving things away, saying goodbye, writing suicide notes or goodbye letters
- risky behaviour (e.g. consuming excessive alcohol or other drug use)
- they might mention or talk about suicide in a joking way.
They might start saying things like:
- 'There's nothing to live for'
- 'You'd be better off without me'
- 'There's no point'
- 'I've had enough'
- 'I'm over it'.
Don't ignore suicide threats
Many people who take their own life give some kind of warning beforehand. Take people's suicidal thoughts very seriously. Help them get support to work through this and stay safe.This crisis will pass. Stopping people from self-harm at a crisis point keeps them safe. Once a crisis passes, they are able to go on to recover.
If you're worried about someone, it's best to act immediately
Even if you're not sure, it's best to help straight away. It's better that you have helped someone stay safe than to be unsure and not act at all. Talk to them and get professional help from others. If you can stop someone from ending their own life at a crisis point, they are able to get help and recover.
For more information go to our get support now page.
Always give someone a reason to hope
Things will not stay this way. Things can get better. Tell the person that although you don't know how they feel you do want to help them get through this. This crisis will pass. There's help available so they can get through their problems and feel better again.
Suicide is a preventable cause of death and it's important to speak up. For resources about discussing suicide, you can visit the Conversations Matter website.
Conversations Matter has been developed to help people talk about suicide in ways that breaks down stigma and shows understanding and support for those thinking about suicide and/or those affected by suicide. The resources cover different types of conversations and are available as an online presentation, printed fact sheet and audio podcast.