Sad woman in contemplative pose.

Six Subtle Warning Signs of Suicide 

Every year, approximately 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide – that’s one person every 40 seconds.

By 2020, the World Health Organization predicts this number will increase to one person every 20 seconds. Although talking about mental health once seemed taboo, the global spike in suicide has shed light on how men and women of all ages and backgrounds suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, substance use and mood disorders.

Preventing a loved one from taking their life starts with identifying the warning signs—especially those which are more discreet than others.

  • Depersonalization: Not to be mistaken for depersonalization disorder, a person contemplating suicide may seem detached or unemotional in everyday life. This can be particularly noticeable in situations when he/she would otherwise express feelings of joy or sadness. For example, a person who’s normally excited to spend time with friends, or cry during a sad movie, may act indifferent towards these experiences.
  • Irregular Sleeping Patterns: Sleeping too much or too little is often linked to depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. However, according to the National Library of Medicine, it’s also considered an independent risk factor of suicide for people of all ages. For this reason, sleep disturbances, whether it’s insomnia or hypersomnia, should signal loved ones to intervene.
  • Isolation: Withdrawing from friends, family, everyday activities and social events can be a strong indicator of suicidal ideations. Encouraging socialization, even if it’s one-on-one, can help deter suicidal thoughts or behaviors from escalating. Most importantly, it’s crucial to offer support to an individual isolating themselves and determine if he/she is considering self-harm or needs to address feelings of loneliness, anxiousness or depression.
  • Lack of Concentration: Though some may associate mental illness with an inability to function, many people suffer in silence as they carry on with day-to-day responsibilities at work, school and home. Knowing this, it’s important to be on the lookout for a robotic demeanor or difficulties focusing. Confusion, indecisiveness and restlessness are also considered risk factors.
  • Mood Changes: In some cases, a person struggling with their mental health will cycle through extreme emotions. Happiness turns into euphoria, anger becomes rage, sadness develops into depression, hopelessness or negative self-talk. Friends and family looking to address a loved one displaying shifts in attitude should do so in a calm, supportive manner.
  • Physical Pain: Because physical and mental health go hand-in-hand, chronic depression often manifests into symptoms of bodily pain. Be alert with those who complain of headaches, stomach aches, unexplainable lethargy, appetite changes and other physical ailments. Of course, self-injury is directly linked to suicidal ideations and should be addressed immediately.

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. All conversations are confidential.

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Photo credit: Tharakorn

Dr. Kristyn Gregory, DO, is a medical director at Blue Care Network and practicing psychiatrist.

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