How do I know if my family or friend is suicidal?

Dealing with depression has made me realize that some people may not know or even realize the signs. In this article, I am sharing personal signs as well as signs from people I have met along the way. This advice should help to assist you in learning the symptoms.

Let's face it; everyone has moments when life can be challenging and can get quite complicated. Unfortunately, managing your emotions during difficult times is not always easy.  It is the coping when faced with difficult circumstances that can lead to feeling helpless and discouraged.  In the United States, teen and young adult suicide are quite prevalent, and unless you know the warning signs, we will continue to lose the fight to prevent this kind of tragedy. 

Recognizing the signs of someone that is extremely depressed or contemplating suicide can be vital in preventing the death of someone you know.  People show signs of depression, but are we paying attention or are we dismissing them or chalking it up to be them being moody?  No matter what the correct answer is, why wait for that dreaded moment when they are at the point of no return?  


  • Lack of interest in things they once loved to do  (i.e. participate in their favorite extracurricular activities)
  • Loss of interest in their work and may start having problems with others on the job.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Sudden aggression.  They might start getting into physical altercations.
  • Withdrawal and isolation from friends and family.
  • Change in sleeping patterns.
  • Change in their eating habits.
  • Neglect of personal hygiene and appearance.
  • Stress resulting in pain and fatigue.
  • Lack of focus.
  • If in School: Grades declining.
  • Loss of interest in work.
  • Boredom

How to know if a suicide plan is in effect?

When someone has definite plans for committing suicide, there are some things that he or she might do that could indicate that they are contemplating, or even planning, suicide. It is imperative to know these signs so that you can take the necessary action and establish your approach of support. By recognizing the signs, you can open up dialogue to get them to reveal what is going on.


  • Statements like, “I am thinking of committing suicide” or “I want to kill myself” or “I wish I could die;”
  • Verbal hints such as, “I want you to know something, in case something happens to me” or “I will not trouble you anymore;”
  • They begin to give away favorite belongings or promising them to friends and family members.
  • Toss valuable possessions away.
  • Shows signs of extreme cheerfulness following periods of depression.
  • Some actual suicide notes; expresses bizarre or unsettling thoughts on occasion.

Many young people will share their ideas and feelings in a desperate attempt to be acknowledged because most of them want help. It is very possible, a person does not know how to deal with their feelings and problems and is looking for someone to guide them. Acknowledging the warning signs and offering support can potentially make all the difference and prevent a suicide. Suicide is a very real danger, and heeding the warning signs can indeed save a life.

If you are a parent with a struggling teen, get to know your teen so you too can recognize if there are any changes in their behavior. If you are not aware of their habits, how can you know if there are any changes? Being a supportive loved one can make all the difference in the world. 

Want to help someone in your life, here are a few referrals to get help:

1-800-SUICIDE - The Hotline for Suicide Crisis

National Institute of Mental Health

Youth Suicide Prevention Program

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Header photo by Allef Vinicius