Warning signs

In many instances, people who have thoughts of suicide will display certain warning signs or signals in their behaviour.

These signs may be physical, behavioural or mood changes, or may present during conversation as specific phrases that highlight suicidal intent.

It is important to recognise and act on any significant or out-of-character actions as a measure to prevent suicide.

Behavioural changes may include:
  • changes in alcohol and/or drug use
  • withdrawal from family and friends
  • withdrawal from activities that the person enjoys
  • emotional outbursts or unexplained crying
  • self-harming
  • reckless behaviour, risk taking, fighting or breaking the law
  • giving away possessions
  • writing a suicide note or letter
  • actively looking for and purchasing means of suicide
  • returning to places where people have died or where they are remembered.
Physical changes may include:
  • changes in sleep
  • changes in energy or activity levels
  • changes in eating habits
  • weight gain or loss
  • loss of interest in sex
  • loss of interest in personal appearance and hygiene.
  • unmanaged chronic illness or pain.
An individual may express feelings of:
  • sadness
  • anger
  • guilt
  • disconnectedness
  • hopelessness
  • helplessness
  • worthlessness
  • rejection.
Some individuals may include certain phrases in their conversations, suggesting suicidal intent. These can include talking about:
  • suicide and suicide plans
  • being alone
  • feeling helpless
  • looking for escape
  • feeling guilty
  • being a burden
  • feeling damaged
  • having no future.

Conversations Matter is an online to support safe and effective conversation surrounding suicide. This tool is useful for both health professionals and the community to talk to someone who is thinking about suicide.

It is important to let the person know you care, let them talk openly and seek professional help if the individual has a suicide plan in place. If the individual does have a suicide plan in place, do not leave them alone, remove means if applicable and seek assistance from a health professional or the suicidal person’s family or friends with permission.

Asking someone if they are feeling suicidal will not increase their risk of suicide.