Information & Prevention

Suicide Warning Signs


Talking about suicide Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as
"I wish I hadn't been born," "If I see you again...,"
and "I'd be better off dead."
Seeking out
lethal means
Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
with death
Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence.
Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for
the future
Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped ("There's no way out"). Belief that things
will never get better or change.
Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden ("Everyone would
be better off without me").
Getting affairs
in order
Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family
and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if
they won't be seen again.
from others
Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing
social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving,
unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they
have a "death wish."
Sudden sense
of calm
A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person
has made a decision to commit suicide.


Suicide warning signs in teens

Additional warning signs that a teen may be considering suicide:

  • Change in eating and sleeping habits
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
  • Violent or rebellious behavior, running away
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Unusual neglect of personal appearance
  • Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline
    in the quality of schoolwork
  • Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Not tolerating praise or rewards

Source: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry



Suicide warning signs in older adults

Additional warning signs that an elderly person may be
contemplating suicide:

  • Reading material about death and suicide
  • Disruption of sleep patterns
  • Increased alcohol or prescription drug use
  • Failure to take care of self or follow medical orders
  • Stockpiling medications
  • Sudden interest in firearms
  • Social withdrawal or elaborate good-byes
  • Rush to complete or revise a will

Source: University of Florida



What should I do if someone I know
is considering Suicide?

If you know someone who is considering suicide

  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Assist the individual in seeking immediate help from a personal physician, the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911.
  • Remove any access the person may have to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications.

Source: Adapted from The National Institute of Mental Health



Risk Factors for Suicide

  • Psychiatric Disorders
    • Approximately 90 percent of people who kill themselves have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illnesses such as major depression, bipolar depression, or another depressive illness, including schizophrenia.
    • Alcohol or drug abuse, particularly when combined with depression
    • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or another anxiety disorder
    • Bulimia or anorexia nervosa
    • Personality disorders, especially borderline or antisocial personality disorder.

  • Past History of Attempted Suicide
    • Between 20 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide. Those who have made serious suicide attempts are at a much higher risk for actually taking their lives.

  • Genetic Predisposition
    • Family history of suicide, suicide attempts, depression or other psychiatric illness.

  • Neurotransmitters
    • A clear relationship has been demonstrated between low concentrations of the serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleactic acid (5-HIAA) in cerebrospinal fluid and an increased incidence of attempted and completed suicide in psychiatric patients.

  • Impulsivity
    • Impulsive individuals are more apt to act on suicidal impulses.

  • Demographics
    • Sex: Males are three to five times more likely to die by suicide than females.
    • Age: Elderly Caucasian males have the highest suicide rates.

Source: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention



Myths and Facts about Suicide

Myth: Depression is mostly a white, middle class problem.

Fact: Depression is an “equal opportunity illness” that can affect anyone, regardless of race or socioeconomic level. Depression and suicide rates among young African-American males and Hispanic teenage girls in particular have dramatically increased in the past 20 years.


Myth: Only depressed youth attempt suicide.

Fact: Children don’t have to be clinically depressed to have suicidal feelings or to attempt suicide. Even feeling extremely “bummed out” for a relatively short period of time can lead to impulsive suicide attempts. Nevertheless, a person who is clinically depressed for longer periods of time is at higher risk for attempting suicide.


Myth: People who talk about suicide don’t kill themselves.

Fact: People who are thinking about suicide usually find some way of communicating their pain to others – often by speaking indirectly about their intentions. Most suicidal people will admit to their feelings if questioned directly.


Myth: There’s really nothing you can do to help someone who’s truly suicidal.

Fact: Most people who are suicidal don’t really want their lives to end, they just want the pain to end. The understanding, support, and hope that you offer can be their most important lifeline.


Myth: Discussing suicide may cause someone to consider it or make things worse.

Fact: Asking someone if they’re suicidal will never give them an idea that they haven’t thought about already. Most suicidal people are truthful and relieved when questioned about their feelings and intentions. Doing so can be the first step in helping them to choose to live.


Myth: Telling someone to cheer up usually helps.

Fact: Trying to cheer someone up might make them feel even more misunderstood and ashamed of their thoughts and feelings. It’s important to listen well and take them seriously.


Myth: If someone promised to seek help, your job is done.

Fact: You need to make sure that any suicidal person stays safe until you can help them connect with a responsible adult.


Myth: People who complete suicide always leave notes.

Fact: Most people don't leave notes.


Myth: People who die from suicide don't warn others.

Fact: Eight out of 10 people who kill themselves have given definite clues to their intentions. They leave numerous clues and warnings to others, although some of their clues may be nonverbal or difficult to detect.


Myth: People who talk about suicide are only trying
to get attention.

Fact: WRONG! Few people commit suicide without first letting someone else know how they feel. Those who are considering suicide give clues and warnings as a cry for help. In fact, most seek out someone to rescue them.


Myth: Once someone has already decided to complete a suicide, nothing is going to stop them. Suicidal people clearly want to die.

Fact: Most of the time, a suicidal person is ambivalent about the decision; they are torn between wanting to die and wanting to live. Most suicidal individuals just want the pain to stop. Some people, seeing evidence of two conflicting feelings in the individual may interpret the action as insincerity, saying, "He/she really doesn't want to do it; I don't think he/she is serious." Peoples' ability to help is hindered if they don't understand the common suicidal characteristic of ambivalence.


Myth: Once the emotional state improves, the risk
of suicide is over.

Fact: The highest rates of suicide occur within approximately three months of an apparent improvement in a severely depressed state. Therefore, an improvement in emotional state doesn't mean a lessened risk.


Myth: After a person has attempted suicide, it is unlikely he/she will try again.

Fact: People who have attempted suicide can be very likely to try again. 80% of the people who die from suicide have made at least one previous attempt.


Myth: Suicide happens without warning.

Fact: There are almost always warning signs, but others are often unaware of the significance of the warnings or unsure about what to do.


Myth: Suicidal people are fully intent on dying.

Fact: Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems.





Locally call

La Crosse County Crisis Line

608-784-HELP (4357)


Great Rivers 211 Crisis line

Dial 211 or


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline



Press 1 for Veterans


National Native Youth Crisis Hotline



LGBT Youth Suicide Hotline