Not all youth who kill themselves give off warning signs of what they intend to do. Yet in other cases, the warning signs are there, sometimes subtle, and sometimes right there in our face. Only in the aftermath do the cries for help seem so obvious. Here are some indicators that a person may be considering suicide. If you notice any of these signs and symptoms in a young person you love, it may be prudent to try and dig a little deeper into their state of mind or consider getting them some help.
How to tell if a youth is suicidal
- Making threats to injure or kill oneself.
- Giving away prized possessions or cherished items to others, or otherwise making final arrangements. A teen who suddenly starts to give away his belongings has likely already formulated a plan and could be dead within days or even hours.
- A sudden and dramatic improvement in mood. Ironically enough, many people become happier once they’ve made the decision to kill themselves, because with a plan formulated, the weight on their shoulders is suddenly lifted. If you notice that a person who was inconsolably depressed suddenly and inexplicably gets better, it is often a sign that their suicide is imminent.
- A child exhibits other sudden and drastic changes in behavior.
- Talking or writing about death or suicide. For example, a teen may choose to write a story about suicide for a class writing assignment.
- Taking an unusual interest in a suicide that is depicted in the media or which occurs within the person’s community. They may make curious statements about such cases that strike others as odd.
- The discovery of a past suicide note. Many parents will stumble across a teen’s outdated suicide note that was written months or even years in the past and dismiss it as a passing phase. Yet very frequently the underlying problems driving such thoughts have remained, and it’s not uncommon for the child who first felt suicidal at age 11 to struggle off and on for many years before finally following through with it.
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or acting as though all is lost; questioning the value of life. A suicidal person may make statements such as “The world is too populated as it is” or “What’s the point? Nothing ever changes anyway.”
- Withdrawing from friends, family or society; dropping out of one’s normal routines or responsibilities.
- Seeking access to means of self-harm, such as searching online for lethal poisons or trying to obtain a gun.
- Acting recklessly or intentionally tempting fate through dangerous activities.
- An increase in drug or alcohol use.
- Exhibiting a foul mood; acting agitated or angry.