Suicide—warning signs and support options
In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for males and females aged between 15 and 44. In a typical year, about 2,500 people in Australia die by suicide. This is nearly seven people every day. For every suicide, there are tragic ripple effects for friends, families, colleagues and the broader community.
This article, which shares information courtesy of beyondblue, highlights the warning signs of suicide, how to get help, and how to talk about suicide. This is the third in a series of articles which also shares information on anxiety and depression, with the aim of improving awareness of mental health.
Did you know?
- Suicide kills close to twice as many people in Australia as the road toll each year.
- Men are at least three times more likely to die by suicide than women.
- Women are more likely to think about, plan and attempt suicide compared to men.
- Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous Australians.
- Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, intersex people are at increased risk of suicidal behaviours.
If a person you know seems to be struggling, reach out and connect with them. Showing that you care, could make a huge difference in their life. If you are struggling yourself, you might feel better if you reach out for support, get treatment and start taking steps towards recovery.
If the situation is urgent and you’re concerned you, or someone else, is in immediate danger, do not leave the person alone, unless you are concerned for your own safety.
Call the person’s doctor, a mental health crisis service or dial 000 and say that the person’s life is at risk.
If the person agrees, you could go together to the local hospital emergency department for assessment.
Other services include:
Lifeline—13 11 14
Suicide call back service—1300 659 467
beyondblue Support Service—1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline—1800 551 800
Sometimes, life can present overwhelming situations that can be difficult to deal with and people might consider suicide as a possible solution to end the pain. People with depression or anxiety are also more likely to attempt suicide than other people.
We can all play a role in preventing suicide by looking out for possible warning signs, reaching out and talking about it.
If you are in an emergency, or an immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. For other support services go to Get support now.
Sometimes, when a person has a deteriorating mental health condition or a person faces a serious, negative life situation, he or she may consider suicide or harming him or herself.
This is not the case for everyone with depression or anxiety, but it’s important to be aware that for some people their condition may become so severe that they may believe these actions are their only option to relieve unbearable pain.
Someone who is thinking about suicide will usually give some clues or signs to people around them, though these may be subtle. Suicide prevention starts with recognising the warning signs and taking them seriously.
- Learn more about the signs people might reveal when they are feeling distraught or overwhelmed.
- Find out about youth suicide warning signs.
Suicide warning signs
- A sense of hopelessness or no hope for the future
- Isolation or feeling alone—“No one understands me”
- Aggressiveness and irritability—“Leave me alone”
- Possessing lethal means—medication, weapons
- Negative view of self—“I am worthless”
- Drastic changes in mood and behaviour
- Frequently talking about death—“If I died would you miss me?”
- Self-harming behaviours like cutting
- Engaging in 'risky' behaviours—“I’ll try anything, I’m not afraid to die"
- Making funeral arrangements
- Giving things away (clothes, expensive gifts)—“When I am gone, I want you to have this”
- Substance abuse
- Feeling like a burden to others—“You would be better off without me”
- Making suicide threats—“Sometimes I feel like I just want to die”
Talking to someone about suicidal thoughts can be challenging but if you are unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.
- Learn more about what to say or do if you are concerned about someone.
- Visit the Conversations Matter website to find more resources for talking to someone who is thinking about suicide.
Having suicidal thoughts can be scary. You may have never had them before, or perhaps the thoughts have been there for a while and you are not sure what to do.
You may be ashamed to talk about it or worry that people will judge you or not take you seriously and just tell you to “Get over it”. But talking to someone you trust and feel comfortable with, about how you are feeling can help.
Let someone know
- Share how you feel with someone you trust and feel comfortable with, a family member, teacher, doctor or other health professional.
- Try and think about it as any other conversation. You can describe what has happened, how you feel and what help you need. It’s best to be direct so that they understand how you feel.
- Be prepared for their reaction. Often people who learn that someone is suicidal can be quite confused and emotional at first. Just keep talking and together you can find a way through it.
- Ask your friends/family member to help you find support; in person, online, over the phone.
- Understand that others do care. It is important to have support from your friends but if you tell them about your suicidal thoughts you cannot expect them to keep it a secret. They want to be able to help you stay safe and that usually means calling in extra help.
In the first instance you need to focus on finding ways to stay safe. Once you are safe you can work out how you are going to get the help you need. Find out more about making a safety plan.
- Remember that thoughts of suicide are just thoughts; you do not have to act on them. These thoughts might only last a few minutes; you might feel differently in a few hours.
- Postpone any decisions to end your life. Give yourself time to get the support you need.
- Remove anything in the house that you might use to impulsively harm yourself – maybe give it to a friend.
- Keep crisis line phone numbers or web links in your mobile phone for easy use.
- Avoid being alone. Have someone near you until your thoughts of suicide decrease.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. They can intensify how you feel and make decision making more impulsive.
Talking openly about suicide or self-harm can be confronting and may create feelings of discomfort, apprehension and confusion.
It can be frightening and distressing when someone you care about wants to harm him or herself. It’s important to remember that for many people this is part of their mental health condition. However, learning about suicide and self-harm may help you to recognise when a person is at risk and you’ll be better prepared should a crisis occur.
If a person you know seems to be struggling, reach out and connect with them. Showing that you care, could make a huge difference in their life.
The Conversations Matter website and Language when talking about suicide page on this website provides helpful tips on how to talk about suicide. A good place to start thinking about what to say to someone you're worried about is the Have the conversation page.
It’s always better to be prepared. Talk to the person about the issue of suicide when he or she isn’t highly distressed and encourage them to develop a safety plan that can be used to cope should they be triggered and start heading into a suicidal crisis.
These resources can help with safety planning:
- Read more on how to make a suicide safety plan from Suicide Line.
- Read more on how a safety plan can help from Suicide Prevention Lifeline, USA.
- Sometimes we need to undertake some training/education to feel more competent in supporting a suicidal friend or family member. Training, like LivingWorks ASIST and safeTALK programs, can help increase your knowledge and skills.
- Stories of recovery and hope
- Understanding suicide and grief
- Helpful contacts and websites
Many people experience suicidal thoughts and feelings, but with support, they are able to work through them and stay safe. People with depression, anxiety or other mental conditions often make full recoveries and go on to lead full, productive and happy lives.
It is important to remember that there is hope for change but that change often happens slowly. Taking steps to getting the support you need can lead to recovery.
A safety plan is the best way to provide structure to what can seem like an uncontrollable and frightening situation. A safety plan is a series of steps you develop and follow if you start to feel suicidal or have thoughts of harming yourself.
Having connections to other people and things you find important can protect you against suicidal thoughts or make it easier to manage if such thoughts return.
Strategies for the supporter
Supporting a person who is suicidal or has attempted suicide can be stressful and at times overwhelming. As with any other time of stress it is essential that you look after yourself emotionally and physically.
Support after a suicide attempt
beyondblue have created resources for people after they have attempted suicide which feature real-life experiences from people who have been through the experience before or supported loved ones in their recovery.
This information is courtesy of beyondblue, and more comprehensive information on suicide and treatment is available on the beyondblue website.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact:
beyondblue: 1300 22
Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Last updated
- 29 May 2017