Warning Signs of Suicide and What Can You Do To Help

Someone who is thinking about suicide will usually give some clues or signs to those around them that show they are troubled. It is important to take these warning signs seriously. 

Someone who is thinking about suicide will usually give some clues or signs to those around them that show they are troubled. It is important to take these warning signs seriously. Below are signs that someone is thinking of killing themselves. Some signs are stronger indicators and these are in bold.

Physical changes

  • Major changes to sleeping patterns – too much or too little sleep
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Sudden and extreme changes in eating habits – either loss of appetite or increase in appetite
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Increase in minor illnesses


  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Fighting and/or breaking the law
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Quitting activities that were previously important
  • Prior suicidal behaviour
  • Self-harming
  • Putting affairs in order e.g. giving away possessions, especially those that have special significance for the person
  • Writing a suicide note or goodbye letters to people
  • Uncharacteristic risk-taking or recklessness (e.g. driving recklessly)
  • Unexplained crying
  • Emotional outbursts

Conversational Signs

  • No future – “What’s the point? Things are never going to get any better.”
  • Guilt – “It’s all my fault. I’m to blame.”
  • Escape – “I can’t take this anymore.”
  • Alone – “I’m on my own…no one cares about me.”
  • Damaged – “I’ve been irreparably damaged…I’ll never be the same again.”
  • Helpless – “Nothing I do makes a bit of difference, it’s beyond my control.”
  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Planning for suicide


  • Depression and Sadness
  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Desperation
  • Disconnection
  • Hopelessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Powerlessness
  • Loneliness
  • Isolation

Responding to warning signs

Speak up if you are worried

It can make a difference to a troubled person to hear that someone cares. Talking to someone about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult. If you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.

You can’t make a person suicidal by showing your concern. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can give relief from isolation and pent-up negative feelings, and may reduce the risk of a suicide attempt. You can’t ‘put the idea of suicide into someone’s head’ by talking to them!

How to start a conversation about suicide

“ I am worried about you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”

“I have noticed that you have been doing… (state the behaviour), is everything okay?”

Questions you can ask

“What can I do to help you?”

“What supports have you called on so far?”

What you can say that helps

“I want to help you and I am here for you when you want to talk.”

Assess the risk

If someone you know tells you that he or she is thinking about suicide, it is vital to evaluate the risk. People who are at the highest risk in the immediate future have the intention to end their life, a specific plan, the means to carry out the plan and a timeframe.

Go through the following questions with the person

  1. Do you intend to take your life? (INTENTION)
  2. Do you have a plan to take your life? (PLAN)
  3. Do you have access to the means to carry the plan out? (pills, access to a high floor of tall building etc) (MEANS)
  4. Do you have a timeframe for ending your life? (TIMEFRAME)

If he or she is at high risk of suicide, seek immediate help by calling 995 (SCDF, ambulance), or with their permission take the person to the Accident & Emergency department of the nearest hospital. If the person resists, make sure you involve someone else to help – e.g. a family doctor. It is important to take care of yourself too. Talk to a psychologist or mental health professional who can support you.

Hotlines in Singapore

SOS (Samaritans of Singapore) – Anybody in crisis and the suicidal.
Tel: 1800-221-4444 (24 hours daily)

Singapore Association for Mental Health Helpline 1800-283-7019

Family Service Centre: 1800-838-0100



By Shrimathi Swaminathan on 16 January 2016 at 12:41
Posted in Mental Health