How to recognize suicidal thoughts
Written By: Counselling Psychologist
M.Sc. Psychology - Swansea University, UK.
Reviewed By: Counselling Psychologist
MA Psychology Pennsylvania State University, USA
Last Updated: 30-03-2023

How to recognize suicidal thoughts

Suicide is death caused by injuring oneself with the intent to die. A suicide attempt is when someone harms themselves with any intent to end their life, but they do not die as a result of their actions. Is an all-too-common and tragic public health crisis nowadays, often committed to coping with intense emotional pain. According to WHO, close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year. 79% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries(WHO). Suicide is particularly tragic because it is a preventable death and leaves behind many loved ones and family members, also known as "suicide survivors", who have to suffer this terrible loss.
It is more common for people to have thoughts of suicide than to commit suicide - in fact, most people have thought about suicide at some point in their lives. These thoughts are quite troubling, especially as they are usually accompanied by a mental illness such as depression or bipolar disorder.
It is critical to know how to recognize and identify signs that a person may be considering suicide.
  • Contemplating suicide may change their actions or mood, such as speaking or moving at a sudden speed or slow pace.
  • Thoughts of Life is not worth living.
  • Prepare or say they want to hurt or kill himself/herself, or someone else.
  • Talk, write, read, or draw about death, including writing suicide notes and talking about things that can cause physical harm, such as pills, guns, or knives.
  • Drinking more alcohol or using drugs, including prescription drugs.
  • When do not want to see people any longer and you want to be alone a lot.
  • Do not take care of themselves or follow medical advice.
  • Give away their stuff and/or hurry to complete the will.
  • Experiencing depression, panic attacks, impaired concentration
  • Increased isolation, talking about being a burden to others.
  • Knowing, identifying, or being associated with someone who has committed suicide.
Note: Warning signs are not always apparent and can differ from person to individual. Many people are straightforward about their thoughts, while others can hide suicidal thinking and feelings. 


The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) suggests the following tips for helping someone who may be going through a crisis:
  • Asking them if they are thinking about suicide. Studies show that asking does not increase the risk.
  • Keeping them safe by staying around and removing means of committing suicide, such as knives, where possible.
  • Listening to them and being there for them.
  • Encouraging them to call a helpline or contacting someone the individual might turn to for support, for example, a friend, family member, or spiritual mentor.
  • Following up with them after the crisis has passed, this reduces the risk of a recurrence


Suicide prevention. Retrieved from


Understanding suicide. Retrieved from


Carrigan, C. G., & Lynch, D. J. (2003). Managing suicide attempts: Guidelines for the primary care physician. The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 5(4) 169-174. Retrieved from

Suicide. (n.d.). Retrieved September 26, 2020, from





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