Know the signs: Suicide warning signs and prevention tips

Aug 18, 2017, 05:53 AM by Dr. Jeff Temple and Lauren Scott, MSW, Behavioral Health and Research Department of Ob/Gyn

SuicidePreventionTipsWhile shows like the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” have been criticized for glamorizing or romanticizing suicide, they have also stirred important conversations about suicide and depression among teens. The fact that about half a million teens every year have thoughts of suicide means that we should be talking about it more. And we need to be more proactive—talking about it in schools and in our communities before a suicide happens. The following tips for recognizing and acknowledging the warning signs of suicide were adapted from For more information, visit their website.

  • Recognize the warning signs, which include:
    • Talking about thoughts or urges to hurt or kill oneself
    • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or seeking pills
    • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
    • Talking or writing about feeling hopeless, feeling trapped, or being a burden on others
    • Talking or writing about the loss of a reason for living or lacking a purpose in life
    • Exhibiting rage, anger or the desire to seek revenge
    • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
    • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
    • Sleeping too little or too much
    • Withdrawing or isolating oneself from friends, family or society
    • Experiencing extreme mood swings or dramatic changes in mood
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. If you think someone might be having suicidal thoughts, ask them directly if they are thinking about hurting or killing themselves. Asking someone about suicide does not cause suicide or put the idea in someone’s head.
  • Be confident. Address the issue without dread, negativity or judgment. Your openness and confidence can be reassuring.
  • Listen. Allow the person to talk about their feelings. A suicidal person may feel relief to be able to discuss freely their feelings and experiences.
  • Take all thoughts of or comments about suicide seriously. It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide—it’s a cry for help.
  • Connect with professionals. Depending on your level of comfort, either engage in a conversation with her/him or connect them to a mental health professional. Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line provides free crisis intervention via SMS message. Text HOME to 741741. Local resources include the Family Service Center of Galveston County ( and the Teen Health Center (
  • Disregard confidentiality at times of suicide risk. If it’s an emergency, address immediately! If someone is suicidal, confidentiality is no longer a consideration. Inform school administration when any student confides a suicide plan or attempt.