How to recognise suicide warning signs

What you can do to help

If you’re worried that a friend or loved one is suffering or thinking of suicide – here are some of the key warning signs to watch out for:

What to listen for:

  • Talking or writing about hurting themselves, dying or saying that they want to die

  • Talking about ways to die or having a suicide plan

  • Saying that they are ‘trapped’ or have no options in their life

  • Saying they have no purpose in their lives, that they feel hopeless

What to look for:

  • Engaging in self-harm or reckless, risk taking behaviour

  • Giving items away or saying goodbye to people

  • Becoming more inward looking and withdrawing from family and friends

  • Changes in their sleep patterns – too much or too little sleep

  • Extreme emotions or dramatic changes in mood

  • Increasing their use of drugs or alcohol

If you recognise one or more of these warning signs in a loved one’s behaviour, don’t wait for someone else to do something.

Contact Pieta

Pieta is Ireland’s suicide prevention charity. Our professional counsellors specialise in suicide prevention and tackling self-harm.

Whether you’re in crisis yourself, or whether you know someone who is, we’re here to listen and to offer FREE expert, practical help. We have centres all over Ireland and Pieta’s suicide, self-harm & suicide bereavement crisis helpline is open 24/7.

If you believe someone is considering suicide, the APR approach may help. APR stands for:

ASK. PERSUADE. REFER.

  1. ASK

    If the person is opening up to you, engage them in a nonjudgemental manner with empathy and don’t be afraid to ask them directly if they are struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harming behaviour. Ask them directly “Are you thinking about suicide or wanting to kill yourself?” Don’t say “Do you want to hurt yourself?”. Self-harming is not the same as suicide.

    Don’t be afraid. It’s understandable that you might be worried that mentioning suicide to someone you love who is in distress could encourage the idea. But that is a myth. The reality is that talking to them openly and honestly is one of the best things you can do. Just listening is one of the most powerful tools we have.

  2. PERSUADE

Calmly and gently try to persuade the person to seek help or to allow you to assist them in getting help. Say “Will you go with me to get help?” or “Will you let me assist you to get help?”

Or ask them to agree not to act on their suicidal thoughts until you’ve arranged help for them. If you can’t persuade them to seek help in person straight away remember that Pieta’s Crisis Helpline is open 24 hours day.

  1. REFER

As quickly as you can, refer or guide the person you are concerned about to Pieta (or your doctor or local mental health service). If you can, make the call with them or travel with them to the appointment.

Remember, most people who talk about suicide do not want to die. They simply want to stop the pain they feel.

Knowing the signs, you can save a life.

Pieta offers free, friendly, safe and expert therapy in your area - in person, by phone, or by text.

Know Suicide Toolkit

Download our Know Suicide poster, leaflet, and social media assets to help spread the word on how to support someone who may be in suicidal crisis.

Start a conversation. Take action.

Don't wait for someone else to do something. Pieta is waiting for your call.