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Suicide is a devastating act that can seem to have come from nowhere. While we can’t accurately predict an attempt, it can be helpful to understand what might put a person at risk.
It’s also valuable to be able to recognize signs that might warn of a suicide attempt.
Conditions that could make suicide more likely:
Depression or other mental health illness1
If several of the following conditions occur nearly every day for 2 weeks or more, it could indicate depression:
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, sad
- Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities
- Changes in eating, sleeping patterns
- Exhaustion, low energy
- Feeling anxious, irritable, restless
- Physical pain without a physical cause
- Drop in performance at work or school
- Trouble focusing or making decisions
- Not wanting to be around other people
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Other risk factors
- Alcohol and drug use
- A previous suicide attempt
- A family history of depression, suicide, abuse
- A major loss–a death, relationship, home
- An event that causes shame, guilt, disgrace
- Physical health problems
- Learning of someone else’s suicidal behavior
- Easy access to the means to commit suicide
- Being impulsive or isolated
These signs may indicate that a suicide attempt is close:
- Direct threats to hurt or kill oneself
- Looking for a way to commit suicide, for example, buying a gun or stockpiling pills
- A focus on death–either by talking, writing, drawing, or posting online about death or suicide; listening to music or looking at websites related to death
- Having a plan for an attempt; generally, the more detailed the plan, the higher the risk
- Behaviors and moods associated with depression as described
- A change in personality or mood–including suddenly becoming happy or calm after being sad
- Neglect of appearance or cleanliness
- Doing risky or self-destructive things
- Giving away meaningful belongings
- Taking care of end-of-life affairs, such as making a will, or getting life insurance in order
- Saying goodbye to friends and loved ones
Take extra caution if a person exhibits 1 or more warning signs and also has 1 or more risk factors or appears intoxicated.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1NIMH.NIH.gov, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml, accessed August 6, 2019.
This information is for educational purposes and intended to promote consumer health. It is not medical advice and is not a substitute for proper care provided by a physician. Cigna assumes no responsibility for any circumstances arising out of the use, misuse, interpretation, or application of any information.