Warning Signs, Brief Intervention and Postvention

Learn the Warning Signs: When to Intercede


These warning signs may mean that someone is at risk of suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and seems related to a painful event or loss.

Immediate Warning Signs:

  • Talking or writing about suicide
  • Has a plan
  • Expressing hopelessness about the future
  • Making preparations for suicide (giving away belongings, writing a suicide note, looking for means to attempt suicide)

General Warning Signs:

  • Feels like a burden or talks about being trapped
  • Relationship difficulties/loss- familial, social, romantic
  • Change in energy level- unusual fatigue/more energy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Changes in hygiene
  • Increasing use of alcohol, drugs or other risky behavior
  • Increasingly agitated, anxious, sad, angry
  • Withdrawing from social activities
  • Spending more time alone or isolating
  • Experience of loss
  • Academic Issues
  • Taking dangerous risks

    Ask directly: “Are you thinking about suicide?”

    • Tell the person thinking about suicide that you are open to speaking about the topic.
    • You may be the first person who has signaled it is okay.
    • The question opens the door to an honest and non-judgmental dialogue which can relieve some of the pain the person is experiencing.
    • Asking does not increase the person’s risk- you will not be giving them a new idea.
    • Asking opens the door for the next step which is to LISTEN. Take the person seriously.
    • Let them tell you about the reasons for their emotional pain.

    Keep Them Safe: Establish immediate safety

    • Have they already done something to try to kill themselves?
    • Do they know how they would kill themselves?
    • How prepared are they to act on their plan?
    • How soon were they thinking of carrying out their plan?
    • Do they have access to firearms?
    • Put TIME and DISTANCE between the person and their chosen method.

    Be There: Show your support

    • Check-in by phone or in-person.
    • Do what you said you would do for the person, but do not make promises you cannot or are not willing to keep.
    • Listen, don’t lecture.
    • Use phrases like:
      • “I’m so grateful you’re sharing this with me.”
      • “I care and I will help.”
      • “Thank you so much for telling me.”
      • “I want to work together to get you help.”
    • Reflect what they share to let them know they have been heard.

    Help Them Connect: 988

    • Text, chat and call options are available.
    • Ongoing support is essential.
    • Contact resources like United Way 211, local community mental health providers, and/or the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.

    Follow Up: See how they’re doing in the days/weeks/months following

    • Phone, text, email- it doesn’t matter how! It just matters the person knows you still care.
    • See if they have connected to the resources you already talked about.

    Safety planning can help facilitate a conversation between yourself and someone considering suicide.

    Safety planning is a preventative strategy for managing individual suicide risk and mental health crises. It is something we can do for ourselves or collaboratively with a loved one or mental health / healthcare professional. Using basic strategies and writing out a plan allows us to recognize existing protective factors and reduce risk factors during a crisis.

    Read our Safety Plan guide and download a pdf of a safety plan for yourself or someone you love.

    Youth Suicide Prevention

    Warning Signs in Youth

    • Sad, hopeless, tearful, crying
    • Irritable, angry, hostile
    • Loss of interest, apathy, withdrawn
    • Fatigue or lack of energy
    • Feeling worthless or guilty
    • Feeling restless or agitated
    • Changes in eating, sleeping, hygiene

    If a child says nothing is wrong but has no explanation for depressed behavior- trust your instincts.

    Encouraging kids to open up:

    • Be loving and non-judgmental.
    • Share specific concerns and why they worry you.
    • Understand that they may be reluctant to open up about how they’re feeling.
    • Offer support; be gentle but persistent.
    • Listen without lecturing.
    • Validate their feelings, remember that we all struggle sometimes.

    Things you can say:

    • “I care and will help.”
    • “Thank you so much for telling me.”
    • “I want to work together to get you help.”
    • Reflect what they share to let them know they have been heard

    If you think a child might be suicidal, ask directly: “Are you thinking about suicide?”

    If they answer “yes”:

    • Ask about a plan.
    • Listen; all signs and statements about suicide must be taken seriously.
    • Be non-judgmental and offer empathy.
    • Do not leave them alone.
    • Stop what you are doing and take immediate action.
    • If they are your student: Contact the building administrator or designee.
    • Connect them with professional help.
    • Continuously follow up.
    • Call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline with them, 988.

    Click here to download our Warning Signs wallet card for guardians.

    If you have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide, you don’t have to grieve alone. There are many support groups that meet in person and virtually.

    • The Alliance of Hope Community Forum The Alliance of Hope was created by survivors for survivors. As a 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit, we provide online healing support and other services for people who are coping with the devastating loss to suicide.
    • Parents of Suicides (POS) – Friends and Families of Suicides (FFOS)
    • AFSP’s Website allows you to search your area to find support groups.
    • Save.org also has a searchable database for support groups
    • The Dougy Center provides support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences.
    • LemonAid provides assistance paying for costs associated with the loss of loved ones to suicide, and help with emotional and resource support needs for Kansans.

    If you are supporting someone who has lost a loved one, visit our Supporting Survivors of Loss page.