The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP)

What are the warning signs?

Suicide prevention depends heavily on our ability to recognize those people who are in distress and may be at risk.  The American Association of Suicidology developed a simple tool that we can all use to remember the warning signs of suicide.  This tool is called “IS PATH WARM” and outlines the key points to remember.

I – Ideation (suicidal thoughts)
 – Substance Abuse
 – Purposelessness
 – Anxiety
 – Trapped
 – Hopelessness/Helplessness
 – Withdrawal
 – Anger
 – Recklessness
 – Mood changes

Other signs and behaviours to be aware of and that might suggest someone being at risk of suicide include:

  • Direct and indirect verbal expressions: “I don’t want to live anymore”, “there is nothing to live for anymore”, “people will be better off without me”
  • Dramatic changes in mood
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Agitation
  • Increase in drug and alcohol use
  • Risk taking behavior
  • Aggressive, impulsive and/or violent acts
  • Expressions of hopelessness and purposelessness
  • Lack of self care or outright neglect of self
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and interests
  • Giving away prize possessions and/or making a will
  • Reconnecting with old friends and extended family as if to say goodbye
  • Previous unresolved or recent suicide attempts

More than one sign could mean that help is necessary. Note how long the signs have been present – how deeply the person feels about the things going wrong in his or her life, and how many signs are present at one time.

What you can do to help a depressed or suicidal person:

Listen to the person with concern
Ask the person if he or she has ever felt unhappy for a long time and assure him or her that things can and will change.
Be especially concerned if the person uses drug and/or alcohol because his or her judgment may be impaired.
Ask if the person has suicidal thoughts.
Stay with the person. Do something together.
If the person is suicidal and refuses to get help, tell a responsible adult or someone you trust as soon as possible.
Make specific plans to see the person the next day so he or she has a reason to hang on for one more day.

For more tips and advice during the crisis, read the first aid guidelines from the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention

Remember: You cannot take responsibility for another person’s life – the decision is his or her own – you may, however, be able to help the person see other ways of dealing with his or her problems and pain.


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