Warning Signs of Suicide

Most people who are suicidal put out warning signs to the public as a cry for help. They either directly or indirectly tell or show others about their suicide plan. Direct verbal threats such as ''I am going to kill myself,'' ''I am going to swallow a bottle of aspirin,'' or ''By the weekend I will be dead'' leave nothing to the imagination. These statements should be taken seriously, no matter how overdramatic they may sound, because very few people make such serious statements for the sake of just being funny. Indirect verbal threats are much more subtle and, therefore, more difficult to pick up on. Indirect threats tend to slide right into regular conversations and may easily be overlooked if one is not aware of these subtle cues. Statements such as ''I hate my life,'' ''Sometimes I wish I were dead,'' or ''I just can't go on any longer'' are all potential clues that someone may be thinking about suicide and that should lead anyone hearing the statement to act to prevent it.

In addition to direct and indirect verbal threats, suicidal people often exhibit a number of behaviors that serve as warning signs. Such signs include sudden changes in behavior related to eating and sleeping patterns, performance at school, physical appearance and hygiene, participation in activities and hobbies, and interactions with friends and family. When people suddenly stop acting like themselves for days or weeks, it is usually a signal that something has gone wrong in their lives and that this behavior should be examined further.

Teens who are making plans to die often try to tie up loose ends before they attempt to take their own life. They do this in a number of ways, including giving away the things that matter most to them, getting their rooms organized and their lockers or work spaces cleaned out, returning borrowed materials, and paying loans. These behaviors are not suspicious in and of themselves, but in combination with other suicide warning signs, these acts may serve as signals that the adolescent does not plan to be alive much longer.

Finally, teens who suddenly become aggressive, rebellious, or disobedient or who engage in risky or self-destructive behavior are also exhibiting signs that could be related to suicidal intent. These behaviors should not be ignored.

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