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Warning signs for someone who is in danger of committing suicide

Direct or indirect expressions of suicidal intent

Contrary to the incorrect but commonly held belief, that a person who expresses thoughts about taking his life will probably not really follow through with it, in almost all cases of suicide the person has either directly or indirectly announced this intent; and often repeatedly. Therefore it is imperative that statements such as: “I don´t want to live any more”, “I simply cannot continue to carry on”, “Unless something changes soon, something is going to happen” be taken seriously.

The more specific the plan becomes (“Tomorrow I´m going to jump out the window.”) and the less the person can see any alternatives worth considering and the fewer perspectives of any kind for the future one can see, the more serious and dangerous is the situation to be estimated and the more urgent the need for immediate action. And it is all the more alarming if the means for carrying out the plan (medicines, weapon) are already at hand. And especially if the thoughts about suicide start closing in and taking “center stage” in the person´s mind, it is high time for seeking professional help.

Thoughts of suicide are often triggered by life crises

It can come to a life crisis when the person with all his experiences and resources is not able to regain a sense of balance in the light of all the burdens life is bringing his way – such as serious illness, separation in a relationship, loss of job, death in the family; in short, the loss of control in one´s own life. This is often accompanied by such strong feelings and symptoms as anxiety, panic, sleeping disturbances, helplessness, feeling overburdened, and even hopelessness. So one tries as hard as one possibly can to bring this all back under “control”.

The way we try to deal with a crisis can be constructive, but it can also become destructive and bring us into even greater danger. And if we see it is not “working” and we see no way of escape, it can lead to the desperate situation of not even wanting to live anymore.

Withdrawing even from important interpersonal relationships

People who are considering suicide often start withdrawing even from their best relationships. Suicide is often an act that occurs in utter loneliness. And it is often the case, that if one perceives that he has no meaningful trust relationship, that he decides to end his life.

Giving up even the most enjoyable activities and interests

People who are considering suicide do not even feel any enjoyment in the very things which they used to love the most. This makes their whole world seem empty and bleak. It is as if there is nothing left that they can look forward to.

Feelings of hopelessness, despair and darkness

People who do not want to live any longer start feeling trapped. Their normal ways of dealing with life no longer work for them in such an acute crisis. Often this is further intensified by a psychological disorder (such as depression) and the scope of life becomes more and more limited. One withdraws more and more from interpersonal relationships. They experience their feelings as being predominately negative and they are overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, despair, fear and hopelessness. This deep sense of isolation and lack of meaningful relationship is one of the reasons people make the final decision to end their life.

Loss of value and meaning

Most people have a sense of having something that makes their life worth living, that gives special meaning to their lives and nurtures their desire to live. That may be deep relationships with people with whom they feel extremely close; or it might be spiritual or religious values, or caring for a beloved pet. But if these special values become questionable, this can become a final and very serious factor in contemplating suicide.

Aggressive and hostile behavior – especially in men

It is important to take notice when men begin to act aggressively or in a hostile and harshly rejecting way toward others in their environment. Men often tend to hide their deep desperation behind this kind of behavior.

When the basis for dialogue with the person is disappearing

When it seems like the possibility for real personal contact and conversation with the person who is having suicidal thoughts is no longer possible, or if the person is not willing to talk openly and honestly about what he is going through, this is also a serious warning sign.

If it suddenly seems more calm in the person who has expressed suicidal intentions, even though the circumstances have not changed

If a person who has already expressed the clear intention to commit suicide suddenly seems more calm and mood seems to have markedly improved, even though there has been no improvement in the circumstances, this could well mean that the decision has been made to actually go through with it. People who have definitely made the decision to commit suicide often feel relieved and have the feeling they have found the way out of their desperate and hopeless situation. Up to this point they have felt tortured by an inner conflict. On the one hand they feel so desperate that they are even contemplating suicide and they do not want to give up the hope that somehow help could still come their way. And they continue to talk about their inner suffering. But the one who has already decided to commit suicide no longer talks about his or her inner needs. Rather he/she is trying to get his or her affairs in order – to draw up a will, or to give away favorite belongings that are meaningful to him, or to take care of his plants. But then it is all the more devastating if that person takes his life shortly thereafter.

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