Warning Signs of Suicide

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Topic Overview

Take any mention of suicide seriously. If someone you know is threatening suicide, get help right away. Health professionals should try to find out whether the person:

  • Has the means (weapons or medicines) available to do harm to themselves or to another person.
  • Has set a time and place to attempt suicide.
  • Thinks that there is no other way to end the pain.

If a suicide threat seems real, with a specific plan and the means at hand:

  • Call 911, a suicide hotline, or the police.
  • Stay with the person, or ask someone you trust to stay with the person, until the crisis has passed.
  • Encourage the person to seek professional help.
  • Don't argue with the person ("It's not as bad as you think") or challenge the person ("You're not the type to attempt suicide").
  • Tell the person that you don't want him or her to die. Talk about the situation as openly as possible.

You can take steps to prevent a suicide attempt. Be willing to listen, and help the person find help. Don't be afraid to ask "What is the matter?" or bring up the subject of suicide. There is no evidence that talking about suicide leads to suicidal thinking or suicide.

Remove all guns from the home, or lock guns and bullets up in different places. Get rid of any prescription and non-prescription medicines that are not being used.

Warning signs of suicide

It is hard to know if a person is thinking about suicide. But you can look for warning signs and events that may make suicide more likely.

People may be more likely to attempt suicide if they:

Events that may put people at greater risk for suicide include:

  • Changes in life such as the death of a partner or good friend, retirement, divorce, or problems with money.
  • The diagnosis of a serious physical illness, such as cancer or heart disease, or a new physical disability.
  • Severe and long-lasting pain.
  • Loss of independence or not being able to get around without help.
  • Living alone or not having friends or social contacts.

Adults who are at risk may show these warning signs of suicide. They may:

  • Plan to or say they want to hurt or kill themselves or someone else.
  • Talk, write, read, or draw about death, including writing suicide notes and talking about items that can cause physical harm, such as pills, guns, or knives.
  • Say they have no hope, they feel trapped, or there is no point in "going on."
  • Buy guns or bullets, stockpile medicines, or take other action to prepare for a suicide attempt. They may have a new interest in guns or other weapons.
  • Drink more alcohol or use drugs, including prescription medicines.
  • No longer want to see people and want to be alone a lot.
  • No longer take care of themselves or follow medical advice.
  • Give away their things and/or hurry to complete a will.

The warning signs in children, teens, and young adults may be different. They include running away from home or doing risky or dangerous things, such as drunk driving.

Take any mention of suicide seriously. If someone you know is threatening suicide, get help right away and learn more about Suicidal Thoughts or Threats.

Other Places To Get Help


Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention
Provincial and Territorial Helplines and Websites (Canada)

Many of the resources below provide help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in multiple languages. In an emergency, call 911.

Canada-wide resources

  • To find a suicide prevention crisis centre phone number or website in your province, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention's webpage at http://suicideprevention.ca/thinking-about-suicide.
  • To find a rape crisis or women's centre phone number or website in your province, visit the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres' webpage at www.casac.ca/content/anti-violence-centres.
  • Kids and teens can call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free 24/7) or visit http://org.kidshelpphone.ca.


  • Provincial Health Information Line. Health Link. Call 811 (toll-free 24/7) or visit https://myhealth.alberta.ca.
  • Family Violence Info Line. Call 310-1818 (no area code required, toll-free 24/7 in Alberta) or visit http://humanservices.alberta.ca/abuse-bullying/14839.html.
  • Child Abuse Hotline. Call 1-800-387-5437 (toll-free (24/7) or visit http://humanservices.alberta.ca/abuse-bullying.html.
  • Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). Call 780-423-4121 (24/7) or visit www.sace.ab.ca.
  • Bully Free Alberta. Call 1-888-456-2323 (toll-free (24/7) or visit www.bullyfreealberta.ca.
  • Mental Health Help Line. Call 1-877-303-2642 (toll-free 24/7).
  • Addiction Services Helpline. Call 1-866-332-2322 (toll-free 24/7).

British Columbia

  • Provincial Health Information Line. HealthLinkBC. Call 8-1-1 (toll-free 24/7) or visit www.healthlinkbc.ca.
  • Domestic Violence Helpline. Call 1-800-563-0808 (toll-free 24/7) or visit www.domesticviolencebc.ca.
  • VictimLink BC. Call 1-800-563-0808 (toll-free 24/7) or visit www.victimlinkbc.ca.
  • Child Abuse Prevention Website: Helpline. Call 310-1234 (toll-free) or visit www.safekidsbc.ca/helpline.htm.
  • BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. Call 310-6789 (tool-free) or visit www.bcmhsus.ca.
  • Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of British Columbia. Call 1-800-784-2433 (toll-free 24/7) or visit http://crisiscentre.bc.ca.

New Brunswick

  • Provincial Health Information Line. Tele-Care 811: Call 8-1-1 (toll free 24/7) or visit www.gnb.ca/0217/Tele-Care-e.asp.
  • Emergency Social Services. During regular office hours (Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), visit www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/social_development/about_us/emergency_socialservices.html to find the number for the office nearest you. After hours, call 1-800-442-9799 (toll-free).
  • Fredericton Sexual Assault Crisis Centre. Call (506) 454-0437 (24/7) or visit www.fsacc.ca.
  • Suicide Prevention CHIMO Helpline. Call 1-800-667-5005 (24/7) or visit www.gnb.ca/0055/index-e.asp.


  • Provincial Health Information Line. Telehealth Ontario: Call 1-866-797-0000 (toll-free 24/7) or visit www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/telehealth.
  • Assaulted Women's Helpline. Call 1-866-863-0511 (toll-free 24/7) or visit www.awhl.org.
  • Distress Centres Ontario. Visit www.dcontario.org/help.html to find the phone number for a crisis line in your calling area.
  • Drug and Alcohol Helpline. Call 1-800-565-8603 (toll-free 24/7) or visit www.drugandalcoholhelpline.ca.
  • Mental Health Helpline. Call 1-866-531-2600 (toll-free 24/7) or visit www.mentalhealthhelpline.ca.


  • Provincial Health Information Line. HealthLine. Call 811 or visit www.health.gov.sk.ca/healthline.
  • Family Violence Outreach. Go to www.justice.gov.sk.ca/FVO for a list of community-based organizations and their contact information, or visit www.justice.gov.sk.ca/IVAP.
  • Child Protection. Go to www.socialservices.gov.sk.ca/child-protection.pdf for a list of local child protection offices and their contact information, or visit http://www.socialservices.gov.sk.ca/child-protection.
  • Mental Health and Addictions. Go to www.health.gov.sk.ca/treatment-services-directory for a list of local alcohol and drug treatment services and their contact information, or visit www.health.gov.sk.ca/alcohol-and-drug-services.


  • Provincial Health Information Line. Yukon HealthLine: Call 811 or visit www.hss.gov.yk.ca/811.php. If you are calling from a satellite phone, you can dial 1-604-215-4700 to reach the Health Services Representative at HealthLink BC.
  • Family and Children's Services. Call 1-867-667-3002 or visit www.hss.gov.yk.ca/family_children.php.
  • Victim Services. Call 1-800-563-0808 (toll-free). Or visit the Department of Justice "Need Help? Phone Directory" at www.justice.gov.yk.ca/prog/cor/vs/phonedir.html.
  • Alcohol and Drug Services. Call 1-855-667-5777 or visit http://.hss.gov.yk.ca/ads.php.

Other provinces

Check your local phone book or provincial or territorial website.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Donald Sproule, MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerLisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

Current as ofNovember 20, 2015