Suicide: Red Flags and Warning Signs

(Image credit: © Ron Sumners |

Suicide is the 10th most common cause of death in the United States, with more than 38,000 deaths per year. Suicide is preventable, but predicting who will decide to kill themselves can be difficult.

Nevertheless, there are risk factors and red flags for suicide. Suicide prevention experts suggest that if a loved one exhibits these warning signs, it's important to make sure the person is not left alone; remove any dangerous objects or drugs that could be used in a suicide attempt; and seek immediate medical help. The U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24 hours a day at 800-273-TALK (8255). The nonprofit Crisis Text Line also offers free text message counseling for teens. To reach the text line, text "Listen" to 741-741.

Here are signs to watch out for, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

-       Talking or discussions about wanting to die

-       Researching ways to kill oneself

-       References to hopelessness or feeling as if life has no purpose

-       Feelings of being trapped or in unbearable pain

-       Feelings of being a burden to others

-       Increased alcohol or drug use

-       Sleep changes; either excessive sleep or insomnia

-       Isolation and withdrawal

-       Expressions of rage or a desire to seek revenge

-       Anxiety, agitation or recklessness

-       Extreme mood swings

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Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.