This month, Next Chapter wants to learn more about the signs that someone may be at risk for suicide –while the conversation around suicide can sometimes be difficult, we want to understand some of the less common or hidden signs to look for. We sat down with Rodger Johnson, a Licensed Professional Counselor with Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center and current Program Manager with Next Chapter.

What are the Warning Signs Someone is at Risk for Suicide?

Rodgers explained that he would break the warning signs into three categories: talking, feeling, and behavior change. “According to the National Institute of Mental Health, common symptoms include talking about wanting to die, more guilt or shame, and being a burden to others. Another category is feelings, including feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, being trapped, or having no reason to live. Feeling extremely sad, more anxious, agitated, or full of rage. Or feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain. Then there is a change in behavior, such as planning or researching ways to die, withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving away essential items, or making a will. Taking dangerous risks like driving extremely fast. Displaying extreme mood swings, eating or sleeping too much or not enough, and using drugs and alcohol more often.

Continuing the conversation, we asked Mr. Rodgers for more specifics and which signs are the most important to pay attention to. 

What are the Signs to Pay Attention To?

Rodgers went on to explain that while not an exhaustive list, you should take all warning signs seriously and that it is essential to pay special attention to these five easy-to-miss warning signs someone may be thinking about suicide.   

1.      Changing Behavior

Changes in behavior can include many things, including a kind, patient person becoming angry or aggressive. A person who has shown long-term signs of hopelessness or depression suddenly becomes happy or calm.

2.      Sleeping More or Less

Insomnia and oversleeping are both possible indicators of an increased possibility someone is considering suicide. Staying up all hours and fighting fatigue the next day can indicate they are struggling. The same can be said of sleeping too much – a person may not want to get out of bed and face the day or may stay in bed all day. Whether or not these symptoms indicate a risk of suicide, they are still a cause for concern and should be addressed.

3.      Accessing Lethal Means

If a person you are concerned about tells you they have bought a gun, there may be a reason for concern. However, gathering lethal means is a significant warning sign they may hide, such as stockpiling pills. The risk of suicide increases with access, and it is essential to be aware of access to any lethal means.

4.      Emotional Distance

Someone feeling suicidal may become detached from life, other people, and everyday activities. A person at risk who is not socially isolated may seem emotionally distant from people. Being unaffected by emotional situations may not seem like suicidal behavior, so it is essential to recognize this behavior as a potential warning sign or a depression symptom. Similarly, someone feeling suicidal may lose interest in everyday activities, work, home, and things they once enjoyed.

5.      Physical Pain

Physical pain and discomfort are often overlooked symptoms of depression and suicide. If someone you know begins to complain about physical pain, like headaches, an upset stomach, or general body pain, pay special attention to other signs of depression or suicide. If the individual has no easy explanation for the pain, such as a history of illness or a previous injury, you should be especially concerned.

Next Chapter Can Help

Next Chapter is a grant-funded community wellness collaborative serving Veterans and their families. At Next Chapter, Veteran leaders, healthcare professionals, and community partners join in a collaborative team initiative to deliver the best support for the challenges Veterans and their families face as they write their next chapter.

Veterans and their family members can make an appointment through the program website at NEXTCHAPTERCO.ORG or by calling 1-888-719-VETS.

If you or a Veteran you know is suffering from any of these signs or is in crisis, contact the Veterans Crisis Line now: Dial 988 then Press 1.