Know the Risk Factors & Warning Signs for Suicide

Warning Signs
Supervisors frequently ask if there are “warning signs” or “red flags” to look for when it comes to suicide prevention. According to the CDC in a 2015 Understanding Suicide Fact Sheet, the following risk factors increase a person’s likelihood of attempting or dying by suicide:

• Previous suicide attempt(s)
• History of depression or other mental illness
• Alcohol or drug abuse
• Family history of suicide or violence
• Physical illness
• Feeling alone

Immediate Risk
Some behaviors may indicate that a person is at immediate risk for suicide. The following three should prompt an immediate call to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or a mental health professional:

• Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself (Communication may be veiled, such as: “I just can’t take it anymore” or “What’s the use?”)
• Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

Serious Risk
Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk – especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change:

• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Withdrawing or feeling isolated
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Displaying extreme mood swings

From the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2014