Hey, Psych2Goers! Before we get started, this is a disclaimer that this article isn’t meant to diagnose, treat, or cure anyone. It is for informative purposes only, so if you or someone you know may be suicidal, we urge you to seek professional help from the national suicide prevention hotline or another trusted professional.
Are they okay? Maybe I’m overthinking, but what if I’m not? Then again, maybe they want their privacy. Have you ever thought someone was in danger but were too scared to ask? From social stigma to not being informed enough, there are many reasons why most don’t like to talk about suicide. However, talking about and destigmatizing suicide saves lives. Knowing what to look for and staying informed are the best ways to be able to recognize if someone is suicidal. You may even save someone’s life one day, so whether you have someone in mind or not, here are 8 signs someone is secretly suicidal.
1. Harmful and reckless behavior
Have they been going to more parties than usual? Is there anything they’d never normally do that they’ve started to do now? Beginning to participate in harmful behavior such as drug abuse, excessive drinking, or self-harm is a sign someone may be spiraling out of control. They might feel as if their life no longer has meaning, so they turn to reckless behavior as a coping mechanism. If this sounds like someone in your life, try to reach out to them and remind them that they are valuable and irreplaceable.
2. Withdrawal from hobbies and interests
Have they started to lose interest in things they once enjoyed? Maybe you two always went to a book club together, but lately, they’ve been making excuses to avoid it. Withdrawing from hobbies generally means someone doesn’t enjoy them anymore, but the real question is why? While it may simply be losing interest in something, there could be an underlying problem. For example, a recent trauma or life crisis could make them unresponsive to things they used to enjoy, which can make someone more likely to commit suicide. So, if someone is always making excuses to avoid doing activities with you, instead of getting upset at them, try to figure out why and get all the facts first.
3. Unusual changes in appearance
Do they look drastically different than they normally do? When someone is secretly suicidal, they may start to care less about their appearance and health. For example, they could skip meals, brush their hair less, or not bother to dress as well as they normally would. Skipping out on normal daily routines like those could be a sign something is wrong, so don’t be afraid to ask them about it.
4. Developing an unhealthy sleeping pattern
While it’s a little harder to know someone else’s sleeping pattern, if they’ve been looking tired and exhausted lately, it’s a good sign they’re not getting enough quality sleep. Not sleeping well can have many causes, such as anxiety and depression, which are huge risk factors for suicide. A traumatic event or crisis could also cause someone to develop an unhealthy sleeping pattern. Knowing this, if someone in your life is constantly tired, you may want to talk to them about it and figure out why.
5. Becoming emotionally distant
Do they seem to pull away every time you try to talk to them? Do you two just not have those long, deep conversations you used to? Someone becoming emotionally distant could mean they don’t feel like they have anyone to support them, which can indicate a suicidal mindset. It could also mean they don’t feel comfortable asking for help, so make sure you reach out to them and let them know they have a support system.
6. Excessive sadness or anger
Have they been more upset and angrier about any and everything? When someone is secretly suicidal, they may have a hard time controlling their emotions and reactions. Being sad or angry all the time is a big sign they’re spiraling out of control and may need your help. If it’s become a recent problem, it’s also a sign of a traumatic event or major change. So, try not to dismiss someone being upset all the time as moodiness or, in the case of adolescents, hormones; instead, check in with them and offer your support.
7. Sudden calmness
Do they seem more at peace than a few weeks ago? While it may sound contradictory, long periods of sadness or anger followed by a sudden calmness is a huge sign someone is suicidal. Typically, constantly feeling those negative emotions builds up until someone can’t handle it anymore and decides to commit suicide. This decision can cause a sense of euphoria or relief. For example, they may say phrases like, “It’ll be over soon,” or, “I don’t have anything to worry about.” If this describes someone in your life, please don’t hesitate to talk to them about it.
8. Making preparations
Have they begun to use phrases like, “I’ve always wanted to tell you…” or, “Always remember that I…”? It may be sad to think about, but oftentimes someone who has decided to commit suicide will try to get their affairs in order. For example, they may update their will, tell friends and family everything they’ve been meaning to, or give away their possessions. While it might come off as them reorganizing their life, try to look a little deeper and figure out what’s really going on.
The bottom line is that it almost never hurts to ask. Letting someone know you’re there and care about them can help someone a lot more than most would expect. And, as always, if you or someone you know is in real, immediate danger, don’t hesitate to reach out to a medical professional. It’s always better to be cautious and make sure someone is okay than risk anything happening to someone you love.
Do you think these signs will help you in the future? If so, which ones? Feel free to comment your experience, input, or suggestions down below.