Warning Signs

Research suggests that 70 to 80% of suicidal people display warning signs that should be dealt with immediately.

Indicators strongly associated with suicide:

  • Talking about suicide, death or dying: saying things like "life isn’t worth it" or "things would be better if I was gone".
  • Making jokes, poems, drawings or other references to suicide, death or dying.
  • Sharing morbid fantasies about suicide, death or dying.
  • Previous or recent suicide attempt.
  • Preparation for death: giving away prized possessions, saying goodbye or talking about going away unexpectedly.

Some attitudes to look for:

  • Depression: Nothing seems important anymore. Life’s a bad joke.
  • Hopelessness/helplessness: There is nothing I can do to change this.
  • Purposelessness: There is nothing to live for; there is no point to anything.
  • Worthlessness: I can’t do anything right. No one cares if I live or die.
  • Overwhelmed: I can’t stand this anymore. This is way too much for me.
  • Intense worry/anxiety: Everything is falling apart. Everyone is going to be disappointed in me.
  • Recklessness/impulsiveness: I don’t care if I break my neck.
  • Elation: Everything is perfect now! (suddenly, after someone has been in a lot of distress)

Some behaviours to watch for:

  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Withdrawal or isolation from once enjoyable people/activities.
  • Risky impulsive activities.
  • Aggressive, violent behaviour; rage/revengeful acts.
  • Decreased or increased performance (school, work, hobbies, sports).
  • Self-neglect (appearance or hygiene).
  • Low self-esteem, low self-worth, self-contempt, anger toward self.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Changes in energy level (up or down).
  • Complaints about health.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Decreased, increased or otherwise disturbed eating and/or sleeping.

Risk Factors

Youth are more likely to consider suicide if they have or are experiencing some of the following:

  • Previous suicide attempt.
  • Family History of suicidal behaviour.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or isolation.
  • Psychiatric disorders or mental illness.
  • Substance use or abuse.
  • Life stressors, such as interpersonal losses and legal or disciplinary problems.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered).
  • Juvenile delinquency.
  • School or work problems.
  • Contagion or imitation (the suicide of a friend or exposure to media reports of suicide).
  • Chronic physical illness.
  • Living in isolation.
  • Access to more lethal means, such as firearms and medication.
  • Impulsive behaviours.
  • Homelessness.

Some youth in minority or marginalized groups have an increased risk of suicide.

You can find more risk factors on pages 8-10 of this guide: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/suicide_prevention/pdf/pys_practitioners_guide.pdf

Risk factors adapted from: ww3.suicideinfo.ca/Default.aspx?tabid=638.

An easy way to remember the key warning signs is through this: IS PATH WARM? It stands for:

  • Ideation
  • Substance abuse
  • Purposelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Trapped
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal
  • Anger
  • Recklessness
  • Mood changes

If you are having thoughts of suicide or of hurting yourself or others, please reach out immediately for help. Call 9-1-1 (or your local police or authority, if you do not have 9-1-1) or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.

If you are being bullied, feeling alone or just need to talk to someone who will listen, please reach out to a trained volunteer or professional:



Resources for Parents

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Resources for Youth

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If you need help, please reach out to someone you trust, like a parent, friend or teacher. Or, you can reach out to someone who doesn’t know you for support. There is a list of youth-oriented support lines and websites on this site just for you.

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