You know your friend has been going through a tough time and has been a bit depressed recently, but how can you tell if things are more serious and they’re thinking about ending their life?
Suicidal ideation is when an individual has thoughts about not wanting to live anymore, usually in an attempt to escape feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, loneliness, or self-loathing. There are some common signs that may indicate someone is experiencing suicidal ideation but remember, they don’t have to exhibit all these signs to be thinking about suicide.
- Talking about self-harm, suicide, or dying with statements like,
“I wish I hadn’t been born”, “I’d be better off dead”, or
“If I see you again…”.
They may also start saying goodbye to people as though they may never see them again or get their affairs in order by making a will or giving away prized possessions.
- Becoming preoccupied with death, dying, or violence, perhaps by seeking out movies or TV series with these themes or writing stories or poems.
- Seeking the means to take their own life, such as stockpiling pills or accessing weapons.
- Having a history of mental illness, such as a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder or addictive disorders like alcohol use disorder.
- Attempting suicide previously
- Having a family history of suicidal ideation or attempts or having a friend, colleague, or family member recently die by suicide.
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness, perhaps by indicating they feel trapped or see the future as bleak with nothing to look forward to. Feelings of self-hatred, guilt, or shame are also common.
- Suddenly developing mood or personality changes, like major mood swings or becoming withdrawn after historically being outgoing.
- Engaging in self-destructive behaviours like increased alcohol or substance use, dangerous driving, or unsafe sex.
- Noticeably changing their eating, sleeping, or hygiene habits.
- Withdrawing from everyone around them and seeking isolation.
- Suddenly exhibiting a sense of calm or happiness after a period of feeling extremely low can indicate the person feels peaceful because they’ve made the decision to attempt suicide.
If you’re worried about talking to someone about suicide, see our post on how to approach them and what to say. If the person is in immediate danger, call 000 or take them to the nearest emergency department otherwise. These 24/7 help lines are also excellent resources for both you and the individual contemplating suicide.
- Lifeline – 13 11 14 – www.lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467 – www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au