how can we tell when depression may lead to suicide?


  • Talks about suicide or death. While not all people who commit suicide talk about it first, approximately 80% do. Note that girls attempt suicide more often than boys, but boys complete suicide more.
  • Writes or creates pictures depicting or describing suicide/death. Children or adolescents are more likely than adults to do this.
  • A failed suicide attempt. Most people have heard that a suicide attempt is a call for help. Many people who do kill themselves have previously made other attempts.
  • Suggestive comments. If the individual starts saying things like, "I won't have to worry about this much longer," or "Things will be different soon," it may not indicate optimism but intention to commit suicide.
  • Depression can lead to impulsivity and risk-taking. Many "accidental" deaths are probably caused by depression-related impulsivity or recklessness.
  • Drug or alcohol abuse. Not only does depression increase the risk of alcohol or substance abuse, but alcohol is implicated in over half of all suicides.
  • Putting things in order and "tying up loose ends." In children, it may take the form of cleaning their room (if it's not their habit), catching up on all their schoolwork, etc.
  • Giving away treasured objects. Someone planning suicide may give away favorite possessions to their friends or loved ones. Both adults and children may do this.
  • Saying "I Love You" and good-bye. Someone planning suicide may call or see their friends or relatives one last time before taking action.
  • Planning the suicide. Someone contemplating suicide may plan ahead. The presence of guns increases the risk, but recent statistics indicate an increasing trend of suicide by hanging.
  • Sudden lifting of mood or even a euphoric state. Having decided to kill themselves, the individual may suddenly feel at peace or better.


As confusing as this may initially seem, suicide is most likely to occur when it seems that the threat has passed.

For some people, it may be that they don't have the energy to kill themselves until the depression has lifted a bit, so as they start to come out of the depression, they may then kill themselves. Other people may -- once they start to come out of the depression -- look at what the depression has done to their family or their school career, and may become suicidal.

Return to Mood Disorders Menu for more articles on depression


The above is presented for informational purposes only, and cannot substitute for the opinion of a qualified professional who is familiar with the individual.








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