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.

    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.

    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.