• James McNeil

What are the warning signs? (Part 3)

For the last week or so, we’ve been talking about different signs exhibited by people considering a permanent end to a temporary problem. Today I’d like to wrap up with three more signs that we need to notice. As always, these are not definite signs that something is going to happen for sure, but when we see these, we should respond accordingly. That could mean asking the hard questions (and being willing to hear answers we don’t like), or it could be helping our loved one find clinical help.

1. Self-harm: This is one of the biggest signs, but it’s also one that people endeavor to cover up the most. If you see someone wearing long sleeves on a hot day, it’s not a sure sign they’re inflicting self-harm, but it would raise an eyebrow. There are various ways a person can harm themselves including cutting and burning the skin. Why would someone do this? It’s not because they enjoy the pain, but it’s because the physical pain can be utilized to help escape the emotional pain.

2. Drug/Alcohol abuse: What would someone do if they wanted to die but didn’t see themselves as “brave” enough to pull the trigger? Abusing drugs and alcohol (which they know will kill them) is one option, and it’s one often used. And while it’s true drug and alcohol abuse can be a slower form of suicide, I’m sure we can agree that any time someone we love is abusing illicit drugs or alcohol, it’s time for us to reach out and get them help.

3. Risky behavior: When I was in high school, it seemed one of the “in” things to do was to drive recklessly including racing. I remember hearing friends in high school bragging about racing and beating others. While this is dangerous, this in itself is not what I’m talking about here. When you get the quiet, reserved type that suddenly starts taking risks (such as racing or other risky activities), that’s when you should take notice. Like the drug and alcohol abuse, you could be seeing someone that wants to die and doesn’t feel able to do it themselves.

So, what do you do when you see one of these or the signs in the previous two posts? The first thing to do is simply start the conversation and be prepared to listen. You may hear some things you don’t like, and to be honest, that’s to be expected. Suicide is a dark path, and a person who’s considering it will likely have some dark thoughts. Also, know when you should ask for help. If something is too big for you to handle, encourage your loved one to seek professional help. But above all, show them that you care. Demonstrate that you are listening and really care about what happens to them. It matters more than you know.

For further tools to help someone dealing with suicidal thoughts and ideations, you can pick up Finding Your Personal Mission at or you can go to We are all in this together, and it will take all of us to put suicide in the rear view mirror.

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