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How do you know your level of suicide risk?

Natalie Staats Reiss, Ph.D., and Mark Dombeck, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 27th 2016

Mental health professionals tend to think about suicidal feelings and thoughts on a continuum or spectrum, with high risk and immediate danger on one end, and low risk and little immediate danger on the other. As a general rule, the level of danger suicidal people present to their own lives increases dramatically as they progress along the steps towards suicide. This is to say, people's risk goes up as they move from 1) thinking about suicide (e.g., suicidal ideation), to 2) planning their suicide, to 3) collecting the necessary equipment, and then finally 4) actually trying to commit suicide. The earlier in this progression they can be identified and helped, the better.

It is very difficult to accurately predict suicide risk and suicide outcomes, even your own! The best guide when trying to predict suicide is a history of past suicidal behavior. Therefore, if you have a history of past serious suicide attempts you should assume that your present day suicide crises are just as significant and serious as your past ones, if not more so.

People who go on to attempt suicide often, but not always, show some warning signs before engaging in this behavior. If you can recognize your own warning signs before you attempt suicide, you can potentially save yourself. You'd think that recognizing your own warning signs would be easy, but it isn't always the case. Warning signs for suicide can be obvious or they can be subtle. They may build up gradually or come on suddenly. There isn't always a specific "red light" thought in your head that suicide is where you're going.

You should be concerned if you notice yourself starting to think in suicidal ways. We suggest that if you start to think about suicide as a good idea, this is an indication that you could benefit from professional mental help. On the other hand, it is also true that many more people exhibit suicide warning signs than go on to actually attempt suicide. Though it is possible that your suicide warning signs may be a false alarm, you should take them seriously anyway, just in case.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Why is it wrong? - - Aug 24th 2011

I have never found some one who can tell me why you should go on if your tired of the hurt and pain.

get help - bella - Apr 16th 2010

If someone is thinking about commiting suside then they need to check themselves in to a doctor's office and try to find out what is wrong. And if they cant do that for themselves then they need to surrond themselves with friends that are able to recognize the warning signs and report them to someone for them. That is the best thing that a friend or family member can do for someoene that is thinking about suicide

meh - - Aug 12th 2009

Not everyone believes in God if they get to the point of suicide. If he never gives you more than you can handle  then why do people take their own lives? Why should i believe in God after all hes taken away from me? religion isnt somthing that you should try to get people to believe in. But Thanks for the advice. 

it does not make scense - S.R - Oct 9th 2008

yes i at times thoght of committing suicide but you know something its does not really help the situation, it might makes things worst.what i did to help myself was go to the one and only person i trust and that was god. i prayed to him and asked him to help me in this situation i think if you try the same thing it WILL work.

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