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Suicide is not a mental illness in itself, but it is a serious potential consequence of many mental disorders, particularly major depression.

Suicide warning signs:

  • Excessive sadness or moodiness. Long-lasting sadness and mood swings can be symptoms of depression, a major risk factor for suicide.
  • Sudden calmness. Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.
  • Withdrawal. Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities are also possible symptoms of depression, a leading cause of suicide. This includes the loss of interest or pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed.
  • Changes in personality and/or appearance. A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behaviour such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.
  • Dangerous or self-harmful behaviour. Potentially dangerous behaviour, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol, might indicate that the person no longer values his or her life.
  • Recent trauma or life crisis. A major life crisis might trigger a suicide attempt. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job or serious financial problems.
  • Making preparations. Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will and cleaning up his or her room or home. Some people will write a note before committing suicide.
  • Threatening suicide. Not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow it through. However, every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.

Who is most likely to commit suicide?

The NHS describes suicide as 'a leading cause of death' especially among young people.

Figures from 2008 show there were 4,282 suicides in England and suicide is three times higher among men than for women.

The risk of suicide may be higher in the following groups:

  • Older people who have lost a spouse through death or divorce
  • People who have attempted suicide in the past
  • People with a family history of suicide
  • People with a friend or work colleague who committed suicide
  • People with a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse
  • People who are unmarried, unskilled or unemployed
  • People with long-term pain or a disabling or terminal illness
  • People who are prone to violent or impulsive behaviour
  • People who have recently been discharged from a mental health hospital - this often is a very frightening period of transition
  • People in certain professions, such as police officers and health care providers
  • People with substance abuse problems

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