Suicidal Risk Factors and Warning Signs

May 12, 2022

resources for suicidal thoughts.

As a comprehensive health care provider, we understand that the impact of suicide affects many people. Whether you, a friend, or a family member has thoughts of suicide, completed suicide, or has been affected by the impact of suicide in another way, losing someone you love is devastating. Suicide prevention and awareness is close to our hearts at UCS Healthcare, and we want to reassure people that our team is actively taking steps toward preventing suicides by raising awareness around suicide risk factors and warning signs.

Our suicide awareness programs and resources encourage regular check-ins with your friends and family members, as well as creating a Safe Plan to help identify warning signs or triggers of suicidal thoughts. When you fill out a Safe Plan online, you can print it or email it to yourself, a trusted resource, family member, or friend.

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline for support: 1-800-273-8255.

Suicide Risk Factors and Warning Signs

We recognize that every person with thoughts of suicide has their own unique situation, which is why suicide risk factors and warning signs can vary. Some individuals may be outwardly depressed, struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, while others fight their battle internally. Warning signs for those who outwardly struggle may consist of, but are not limited to:

  • Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities
  • Isolation or reclusive behavior, including canceling plans or not responding to texts
  • Exhaustion or low energy
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Neglect of appearance or cleanliness
  • Taking care of end-of-life affairs
  • Direct threats to harm self or plan to complete suicide
  • Previous suicide attempt

Oftentimes our friends and family members who have a high-stress occupation or a stressful lifestyle tend to struggle with anxiety and thoughts of suicide more than what may be detected from the outside. Clouded by high function and perfectionism, it is even more important to check in with those who seem to have it all together because too much pressure for too long can weigh heavy on anyone. Warning signs for those who internally struggle with suicidal ideation require more intentional observation. Risk factors consist of, but are not limited to:

  • Change in career or increase in responsibilities associated with occupation
  • A major loss, such as a relationship, promotion, death, or home
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive behavior, like gambling or dangerous sports and activities
  • Giving away meaningful belongings
  • Unnoticed self-isolation that can be disguised as relaxation due to a busy schedule
  • Slowly creating a suicide plan, like buying a gun or stockpiling pills

Although suicide risk factors and warning signs vary from case to case, friends and family members need to pay close attention and remain aware of what is going on in loved ones’ lives. Most importantly, loved ones should regularly check in on those you care about.

How To Help A Suicidal Friend

If you notice changes in a friend’s behavior or it seems hard to reach a friend via social media, text, or phone call, continue to be persistent in scheduling a time to engage with this person, preferably face-to-face. One way to help a friend who may be or is struggling with thoughts of suicide is to openly refer to yourself as a resource and person that can be trusted to confide in. At first, it may feel uncomfortable to discuss mental health and suicide, as it is a sensitive topic that is normally not addressed in everyday discussions, however, the more questions you ask and the more you make it a part of regular conversation, the increased likelihood your friend will open up to you when there is a problem.

Empower your friends and let them know they are valued, loved, and important in the lives of the people around them. If you have a friend that you are worried about, please refer them to UCS Healthcare, and if necessary, you can give us a call at 515-280-3860 too.

What should you not say to someone who is having suicidal thoughts?

If a friend or loved one does decide to open up about their battle, do not brush off their concerns and replace them with your perception of the good things they have in their life. The job you think brings them security might be the cause of a lot of stress. The friend who is popular and well-liked may feel the pressure of being on display or like they can’t make a mistake. Although others’ lives may seem perfect and put together, our outside perspective is much different from those who live it every day. Be a listening ear and let your friend or loved one know that if they need a safe person to talk to, you will be there without judgment.

What To Do If You Have Suicidal Thoughts

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or you are feeling depressed and have a plan to complete suicide, but are not comfortable receiving care from a hospital or medical facility, there are chats and hotlines here to help you. You may also find support from confiding in a close friend or loved one and seeking care through personal or group therapy. Below are some sources to turn to when you have suicidal thoughts:

Find Your Safe Person- Identify a person in your life whom you can trust and share your current feelings without judgment. Openly sharing your story and emotions with someone who cares about you and has your best interest in mind can help you feel less alone.

Find Help On Online Chats- To be connected with a counselor or other services via chat, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or Your Life Iowa. Here you can fill out an online pre-chat survey and connect with individuals that will find resources for you. All conversations with responders are free and confidential.

Personal and Group Therapy- At UCS Healthcare, we offer individual and group therapy to patients needing mental health support. Our staff members help patients set goals, identify personal triggers, and more. These services are provided in an outpatient setting and depending on the patient's needs, session frequency varies from weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

Mobile Crisis- Anyone experiencing a crisis including adolescent behavioral issues, substance use, anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts can access the crisis line. Trained phone responders will assess the situation and if an in-person response is needed, operators will deploy the Mobile Crisis Response Team.

Should I go to the hospital for suicidal thoughts?- If you have a plan to complete suicide we suggest seeking help of any kind immediately. This includes confiding in a loved one, calling the Mobile Crisis Unit or National Suicide Prevention Hotline, or driving yourself to a hospital. If you do decide that you want to seek help from a hospital, to be checked in and eligible for observation, you must tell the staff that you have a plan to complete suicide.

How to Overcome Suicidal Thoughts With Help From UCS Healthcare

Mental health can be a contributing factor to thoughts of suicide. To assist those struggling with their mental health and who are searching for treatment due to suicidal thoughts, our mental health therapy services include psychotherapy and medication management as part of our integrated treatment. Our therapists are highly trained in individua and group psychotherapy. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use to cope with thoughts of loneliness or suicide, please refer to our outpatient treatment services and group therapy sessions to feel safe and supported in your recovery.

Upon meeting with a patient or intake, our staff members will conduct a patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9) that includes questions about the patient’s current mental state, isolation, and withdrawal and if they are experiencing thoughts of self-harm and suicide ideation. If it is determined that the patient is experiencing thoughts that jeopardize their well-being, our staff member will start a Safe Plan to help identify triggers that may lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide as well as plan some coping mechanisms with the patient. If the patient has a plan to complete suicide, our staff members will alert the Mobile Crisis unit to transport the patient to a nearby, trusted hospital for observation.

Our Team Truly Cares About Suicide Prevention

When we say suicide awareness and prevention are close to our hearts, we mean it. Not only do our staff members work alongside our patients’ stories, but our staff members also have their own experiences with mental health and suicide.

We interviewed Sevlija, Substance Use Disorder Counselor for UCS Healthcare. She uses her personal experience to raise awareness and fuel her passion for helping those struggling with mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation. Her brother completed suicide while they were both in high school, and his death led her to follow a path of providing a safe space to listen to and support others. “I love telling my brother’s story because it helps me establish a bond with my patients, knowing personally what they’re going through, and it keeps his memory alive.”

Sevlija knows many of the signs or thoughts her patients may be having, and she values helping them realize their worth and come up with safety plans to potentially save their life. She also noted, that she’s grateful to work at a place like UCS Healthcare that is so open and honest and willing to talk about suicide - it’s powerful to know that someone cares about their team members as much as the patients they care for.

More Resources For Suicidal Thoughts & Work Towards Suicide Prevention

If you or someone close to you need immediate assistance, call the following resources for safe and supported care.

We Want To Help! Contact UCS Healthcare For Treatment of Mental Health Including Suicidal Thoughts

UCS Healthcare is an inclusive and open-minded healthcare facility that specializes in treating the whole person - mind and body. We strive to provide the best expert care to our patients and we are proud to be Zero Suicide Academy certified. This program provided a company-wide survey that addressed the comfort level of discussing suicide, personal experience with suicide, and training to help reduce suicide rates. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide completion, contact our staff about suicide prevention and other mental health therapy services.