4 Vital Signs That Someone You Love May Be Suicidal

THE latest public report showed that 6708 people in the UK and Ireland died from suicide in 2013.

These alarming statistics have observed an increase in figures over the years, with suicide rates in males now being the highest since 2001.

 Several UK charities have commented that these figures are unsurprising given current economic challenges and massive reductions in the budget for mental health services.

But it is becoming increasingly clear that other factors need to be considered in order to manage what is still a taboo and under-explored social issue.

There have been three suicides in my own family over the past eighteen years, and there are some recurrent warning signs that someone might be considering ending there life.

pexels-photo-large Local author Jimmy Smyth emphasises the importance of internal as opposed to external factors when assessing suicide risk.

“One small thought in our mind can build and bring happiness into our lives or a single thought can grow and destroy us. We have to become the masters of our minds and not it’s servant.”

Jimmy, who is also writing a non-fiction book about the history of women and mental illness, said, “Through our own thoughts we cultivate demons in our minds to the extent that some people jump over the edge into the unknown, rather than continue with life. Their fear of going on is greater than their fear of the unknown. I believe that we need to learn how to manage our thoughts and how to control our minds. That is why I am a huge fan of mindfulness.”

 January can be a difficult month for various reasons, and suicide rates often increase at this time of the year.

Bad weather, lack of sunlight and the Christmas ‘come-down’ can all contribute to poor mental health states.

But while environmental factors can exacerbate the problem, they are generally not the fundamental cause. This is why it is so important to talk more openly about the issue and become more tuned in to the needs of those with mental health problems.

Perhaps the most accurate description of a suicidal mindset is the following.

Imagine being trapped in a tall burning building. You realise you have two choices: Either jump out of the window, or stay and burn slowly in the fire. In this sense, suicide is not always the ‘choice’ that society perceives it to be. It usually occurs after a gradual process from thoughts, attempts and a length of unbearable suffering, ultimately culminating in fatal action.

Yet many of these signs are not visible until the action stage, so it is crucial to be aware of subtle changes in behaviour. Here are four things to be aware of.

Preoccupation With Death And Morbid Subjects

lights-night-glass-rainy-largeThe decision to end your own life is rarely taken lightly. Usually a person’s mind is in such a place that they see it as the only viable option for them and those they love. But of course, it is a terrifying prospect. So dancing with the idea of death is a way to ‘prep’ themselves, even subconsciously.

When someone begins to talk frequently about death, dying and the nature of mortality as a whole, it could be sign that they are suicidal.

During my own dark periods, this was all I could think about. Therefore conversation always turned to morbid themes…negative news stories, dark music, depressing subjects.

If you are either consciously or unconsciously preparing for death, talking about it is strangely comforting. Suicide can seem like a relief when a person is deeply depressed, so being preoccupied with the subject can be a method of escapism prior to physical action.


This is a vital sign that someone may be seriously considering suicide. Taking one’s own life does not always occur in a moment of despair. It is usually after a long process of trying all other options, and subsequently the victim has a distinct tone of acceptance and resignation.

If someone has been through a period of difficulty and they then become strangely calm and resigned, in voice tone and behaviour, it can be dangerous territory.

They have usually accepted their situation and will not want others to be aware of their intentions for fear of being stopped.

Tying Up Loose Ends

In many cases, a suicidal person with a clear plan to end their life will still behave very ‘normally’. They may show discreet signs of their intentions by giving away possessions, finishing up business obligations or ensuring their will is completed.

Over a period of time this can seem like normal activity that anybody might carry out, so the key thing to take into account is a full picture of the person’s health, experiences and mental outlook.

Of course, everyone is different so these signs will not specifically apply to every individual. This is why the next point is probably the most important.

Gut Feeling

If you have a feeling of unease in your gut, listen to it. We are highly evolved animals who are particularly in tune to our friends and loved ones, their moods, worries and behaviour.

There could be a hundred observable ‘signs’ that a person is thinking about suicide, but often a strong sense that something is not right is all that is needed to detect potential harm.

 Human instincts have allowed us to survive and evolve, and are worth listening to.


Belfast’s Public Initiative for Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm (PIPS) is a charity dedicated to supporting those affected by suicide and self harm.

They have recently published a leaflet outlining risk factors, warning signs and where to go for help. Check out their Facebook page www.facebook.com/pipssuicideprevention

The following numbers can provide further information, support or emergency help.

Lifeline: 0808 808 8000: (Freephone. Having used them before, they have an incredibly compassionate and knowledgeable group of volunteers that will also follow up on your situation to ensure you are getting the right care in your area.)
Samaritans Belfast: 116 123 (Freephone)
Health and Social Care Belfast Out of Hours: 028 9074 4447
New Life: 028 9039 1630 (Counseling service)
The Nightingale: 0808 168 7771 (24/7 face to face crisis support)

About the Author

Abby Williams
Belfast based author/writer specialising in entertainment, mental health and human interest.