Sometimes, even health care professionals have difficulty determining how close a person may be to attempting suicide. As a friend or family member, you can’t know for certain either. If you sense there is a problem, ask your friend or loved one direct questions and point out behavior patterns that concern you.

Remind your friend or loved one that you care about them and are concerned. Talking about suicide with someone will not plant the idea in their head. If necessary, recommend that they make an appointment to see their doctor and offer to go with them if you sense they would have difficulty doing it on their own. If you believe that immediate self-harm is possible, take the person to a doctor or hospital emergency room immediately.

Warning Signs

Feelings of Despair and Hopelessness

Often times, individuals with depression talk with those closest to them about extreme feelings of hopelessness, despair, and self-doubt. The more extreme these feelings become, and the more often they’re described as “unbearable,” the more likely it is that the idea of suicide may enter the person’s mind.

Taking Care of Personal Affairs

When a person is winding up his or her affairs and making preparations for the family’s welfare after they are gone, there is a good chance the individual is considering self-harm or suicide.

Rehearsing Suicide

Rehearsing suicide, or seriously discussing specific suicide methods, are also indications of a commitment to follow through. Even if the person’s suicidal intention seems to come and go, such preparation makes it that much easier for the individual to give way to a momentary impulse.

Substance Use

Someone with worsening depression may use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. These substances can worsen symptoms of depression or mania, decrease the effectiveness of medication, enhance impulsive behavior, and severely cloud judgment.

Beginning to Feel Better

It might sound strange, but someone dealing with depression may be most likely to attempt suicide just when he or she seems to have passed an episode’s low point and be on the way to recovery.

Experts believe there’s an association between early recovery and increased likelihood of suicide. As depression begins to lift, a person’s energy and planning capabilities may return before the suicidal thoughts disappear, increasing the chances of an attempt. Studies show that the period 6 to 12 months after hospitalization is when patients are most likely to consider, or reconsider, suicide.