Warning Signs of Suicide

Although no one can predict with 100% accuracy who will attempt suicide and when, the following signals may indicate a risk of suicide.  The more clues and warning signs observed, the greater the risk.

Take all signs seriously!


Strong Predictors

Verbal Clues

Behavioral Clues

Situational Clues

Previous suicide attempt

“I’ve decided to kill myself.”

Physical symptoms such as sleep disturbance, appetite change, aches/pains

Being  fired or expelled from school


“I wish I were dead.”

Unexplained anger, aggression, irritability, acting-out

Sudden decline in academic performance


“I’m going to commit suicide.”

Self-destructive acts (e.g. cutting, risk-taking behaviors)

Family conflicts

Suicidal ideation/plans

“I’m tired of life, I just can’t go on.”

Missing classes, isolating self, withdrawing

Loss of any major relationship

Substance use

“My family would be better off without me.”

Drug/alcohol abuse or relapse

Recent disappointment or rejection

Family history of suicide

“Who cares if I’m dead anyway?”

Sudden interest or disinterest in religion

Death of a friend or family member, especially
if by suicide


“I’m going to end it all.”

Acquiring a gun or stockpiling pills

Diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness


“If (such and such) doesn’t happen, I’ll kill myself.”

Putting personal affairs in order

Legal issues, unexpected loss of freedom, fear of punishment


“I’ve decided to kill myself.”

Giving away prized possessions

Financial problems

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Helping a Friend

Many students have never directly dealt with a suicidal person. When such a situation presents itself, they are likely to feel helpless and overwhelmed. The following guidelines are presented to help provide a sense of direction and facilitate the helping process.


  1. If in doubt, don’t wait, ask the question
  2. If the person is reluctant, be persistent
  3. Talk to the person alone in a private setting
  4. Allow the person to talk freely
  5. Give yourself plenty of time - they may not say they are suicidal right away
  6. Have your resources handy: phone numbers, names, and know how you are going to get them to help
  7. Be bold



  1. Listen to the problem and give them your full attention
  2. Say, “I want you to live,” or “I’m on your side”
  3. Remember, suicide is not the problem, only the solution to a perceived unsolvable problem
  4. Offer hope in any form
  5. Get Others Involved.  Ask the person who else might help. Family? Friends? Siblings? Pastors? Rabbi? Physician? Faculty? Roommates? Coaches?


Then Ask:
“Will you go with me to get help?”
“Will you let me help you get help?”
“Will you let me call someone who can help?”



  1. Individuals who are suicidal often believe they cannot be helped, so you may have to do more.
  2. The best referral involves taking the person directly to someone who can help.
  3. The next best referral is getting a commitment from them to accept help, then making the arrangements to get that help.
  4. The third best referral is to give referral information and reinforce how helpful talking to someone can be. Any willingness to accept help at some time, even if in the future, is a good outcome.
  5. Join a Team.  Offer to work with clergy, therapists, psychiatrists or whomever is going to provide the counseling or treatment.


Follow up with a visit, a phone call or a card, and in whatever way feels comfortable to you, let the person know you care about what happens to them.  Caring may save a life.

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A Few Myths About Suicide

No one can stop a suicide, it is inevitable.
If people in a crisis get the help they need, they will probably never be suicidal again.

Confronting a person about suicide will only make them angry and increase the risk of suicide.
Asking someone directly about suicidal intent lowers anxiety, opens up communication and lowers the risk of an impulsive act.

Only experts can prevent suicide.
Suicide prevention is everybody’s business, and anyone can help prevent the tragedy of suicide

Suicidal people keep their plans to themselves.
Most suicidal people communicate their intent sometime during the week preceding their attempt.

Those who talk about suicide don’t do it.
People who talk about suicide may try, or even complete, an act of self-destruction.

Once a person decides to complete suicide, there is nothing anyone can do to stop them.

Suicide is the most preventable kind of death, and almost any positive action may save a life.

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Links and Resources

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

CSUF Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

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Legal Disclaimer

This Website is for general information purposes. It is not a substitute for personal medical advice from a medical professional. The advice presented may not be right for you and should not be relied upon in making decisions about your health. Always consult your doctor for medical advice.

Links to other Web sites are not affiliated with California State University, Fullerton and may or may not express the views of the University. The University cannot verify and is not responsible for the accuracy of any information found on these sites.

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