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Warning Signs

Warning signs are specific behaviors that could indicate someone may be thinking about suicide. Recognizing warning signs is an important first step in being able to help your friend. The more warning signs you see, the more likely it is that your friend may be thinking about suicide.

People may give direct as well as indirect verbal cues about their suicidal thoughts. These typically communicate feelings of being trapped, helpless, and hopeless. Direct verbal cues are clear statements expressing suicidal thoughts, such as "I'm thinking about killing myself," while indirect verbal cues serve more as hints that a student is thinking about suicide. These can be statements like "Things will be better when I'm gone," "The pain will never stop unless I do something," or "I want to go to sleep and never wake up." Students may express these verbal cues on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. No matter which medium your friend uses to express these verbal cues, they should always be taken seriously.

Warning signs include:

  • Talking about or making plans for suicide.
  • Expressing hopelessness about the future.
  • Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress.
  • Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:
    • Withdrawal from or changing in social connections/situations
    • Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
    • Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
    • Recent increased agitation or irritability

If you notice these warning signs in your student/friend, it is very important that you ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide. For more information on how to do this, click on the How to Help a Friend on this website. To learn more about the warning signs, visit www.youthsuicidewarningsigns.org.