What are the signs of suicidal ideation?

How can I know if my friend is suicidal?

For Bible references in this video, check the description on YouTube.

TW: suicide, depression, abuse

The "symptoms" of being suicidal are, unfortunately, not as obvious as we might think. Our kneejerk reaction might be, "I'd know if I was suicidal!" or "I'd know if my friend was hurting that bad!" But suicidality isn't triggered by one-size-fits-all reasons, and the transition from an emotionally-healthy state to a suicidal one can be much harder to spot. A person's risk of suicidality can be caused by genetics, trauma, mental health issues, or many other reasons. For the Christian, it can be scary to even consider ourselves as suffering from suicidality because we may feel like we're inherently in sin and failing as a "good Christian."

The Bible doesn't discuss suicide very often, and it doesn't list signs to watch for in a potentially suicidal person. What it does talk about is God's intense love for ALL life—how much He values it and how much He values YOU.

We at 412teens aren't mental health professionals. We can't give you foolproof tools to determine whether or not you or your friend is suicidal, but we CAN give you some warning signs to watch for. It is our hope that you will be able to use this information to catch a suicidal friend—or seek help for yourself—before it's too late. We hope you will be encouraged and equipped to encourage others to bathe in the love of God, the Giver of Life. (Also see: What should I do if my friend is suicidal?)

Sign #1: Talking About Wanting to Die

Is your friend talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves? Even jokingly? Have they talked about having nothing left to live for? Do YOU feel like there's nothing left to live for? That things will never get better? Some people use jokes as a way to express real pain without risking anyone knowing how they're really feeling.

It is never, never OK to make jokes about suicide. A person's life is too important to joke about; your life is too important to joke about.

If your friend says this, ask them if they would really rather be dead if X doesn't happen. Try not to be judgmental, but don't settle for a brush-off answer. Encourage them to think about how important their life actually is, to not joke about suicide, and let them know you're there for them if they're ever in despair.

Sign #2: Mood Swings & Personality Changes

A suicidal person's personality or habits may change. Maybe they used to be super outgoing, but now they're falling into the background as much as possible. Maybe they used to be really quiet, but now they're crashing conversations. A kind friend is always angry now. A snarky friend may be less opinionated.

They may have experienced a recent trauma or have lost a loved one. Maybe they're grieving and these changes are temporary, but these changes may also reflect that person's internal fight for survival.

If you are worried about your friend's new personality, ask them what triggered changes.

Why don't they want to hang out anymore? Is there anything you can do? Are they thinking about hurting themselves? These types of questions may seem invasive and impolite, but their life is more important than propriety. Again, try to ask without judgment—even if you're hurt at their anger, disinterest, etc.

Sign #3: Changes in Behavior and/or Riskier Behavior

Keep an eye out for unusual changes in behavior. Are they always late when they used to be punctual? Are previously good grades slipping? Are they growing disinterested in their most beloved hobbies?

Have they taken up doing drugs? Alcohol? Smoking? Are they super physical with their girlfriend or boyfriend when they didn't used to be? Driving recklessly, including not wearing a seat belt?

These can all be signs they no longer care about their life and are declining into suicidality.

Sign #4: Sudden Improvement in Mood and/or Saying Goodbye

A friend's suddenly cheery demeanor after a period of depression or isolation at first seems like a good thing. But sometimes it's a sign that the friend is instead feeling relief from making the decision to end their life.

In addition to the mood changes, are they giving away a lot of their belongings? Making a point to do things they always wanted to? Are they spending all their money, keeping their room extra neat, etc.? In short: Does it feel like they're saying goodbye?

If you fear this is the case for your friend, talk to them. Ask them directly if they've decided to end their life.

What is suicidal ideation?

Someone may be struggling with thoughts of wanting to die or to be dead but not really know if it "counts" as suicidal. IT DOES. It does not matter if the suicidal thoughts are a low-risk factor—if they haven't acted on anything or if they have or have not planned out any of those thoughts—these are STILL symptoms of suicidality.

For some, hearing that their suicidal thoughts count as "being suicidal" may feel like a slap in the face. But saying this isn't meant to shame you or anyone who feels like death is the answer; it's meant to express the importance of getting help NOW before those thoughts and fantasies take the form of plans and attempts. Your friend is worth help and healing; YOU are worth help and healing.

Remember this: You are loved.

Whether you're crushed under the weight of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, or experiencing immense stress—or worried that your loved one is—we want you to know how truly, deeply, madly loved you are.

God cares about all life (Matthew 10:29) but especially about human life—especially YOUR life. He cares so much that He created humankind in His image (Genesis 1:27), and He declared it very good (Genesis 1:31). He cares so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die so you could experience a true, eternal life with Him (John 3:16).

God cares about your pain and about your tears (Psalm 56:8). He wants you to live the full length of days He's given you. The temptation of suicide comes from Satan, who speaks lies that sound like truth (Genesis 3). Satan "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

You may be lonely. You may be hurting. You may have even been told that God is a harsh, uncaring Father who hates you for even asking yourself the question, "Am I suicidal?" But no matter what past mistakes are hurting you now, God is merciful and loving; in fact, He rejoices over you. The Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel messing up and turning away from God, but God always accepted them back and rejoiced over them with gladness (Zephaniah 3:17).

If you or your loved one are feeling suicidal, PLEASE REACH OUT. God places us in each other's lives to help each other. Life is a beautiful thing, even if it is shrouded in pain right now.

Suicide Prevention: Seek Help Now

The symptoms suicidality can vary drastically. The triggers of suicidality can be trauma, genetics, spiritual abuse, poor mental health, and more. The Bible doesn't discuss suicide often, but it does talk about God's vibrant love for all life (Matthew 10:29). Some of the broader signs of suicidality are: 1. Talking about wanting to die (even jokingly); 2. Mood swings and personality changes; 3. Changes in behavior and/or engaging in risky behavior; 4. Sudden improvement in mood and/or "saying goodbye." Any suicidal ideation is a sign of suicidality and "counts" as suicidal. No matter the triggers and depths of your pain, you are madly loved by the Creator of the Universe who made YOU in His image (Genesis 1:27) and declared it good (Genesis 1:31). He sent His Son to give YOU life (John 3:16). He sees and understands your pain (Psalm 56:8). The allure of suicide is a lie from Satan that twists the truth (Genesis 3; 1 Peter 5:8). No matter how bad you're feeling or how bad your circumstances or mistakes are, God accepts His children back and rejoices with gladness (Zephaniah 3:17).

Writer/Editor: September Grace

September is an avid film nerd from growing up on weekend trips to Universal Studios Hollywood. She is passionate about the intersections of Christian spirituality, faith, and storytelling in popular culture. Outside of 412teens and digging up obscure horror flicks from the 2000s, she works as a freelance developmental editor and acquisitions consultant while comforting her clingy feline floof, Faust, from the anxiety of existence.

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