Suicidal warning signs and coping strategies

Some suicides occur without any obvious warning, but usually there are warning signs. It’s important to understand what the warning signs are and look out for them.

If you notice suicidal warning signs appear, there are coping strategies you can use which have worked for others.

On this page we explain common suicidal warning signs and coping strategies.

Remember, support is available.

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Crisis support options - for urgent help

If you're seriously injured or at risk of harming yourself right now, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance. For free, confidential 24/7 counselling call or chat online to Lifeline or Suicide Call Back Service. No problem is too big or small.

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Suicidal warning signs

Warning signs are different for each person. You’ll probably notice a range of signs rather than just one or two.

This is not an exhaustive list. Be guided by your instincts and if you’re worried, get mental health support.

If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, we can help you learn how to. Visit Talking to someone about your suicidal feelings.

Changes in relationships

  • Withdrawing from other people.
  • Feeling like you don’t belong or won’t be accepted.
  • Feeling like you’re a burden to other people.
  • Feeling like a failure or a disappointment.
  • Feeling isolated or lonely.
  • Finding it hard to talk to people.
  • Fighting with people.

Emotional changes

Feeling:

  • depressed or hopeless
  • anxious or stressed
  • trapped
  • angry
  • overwhelmed
  • numb
  • like there’s no future
  • worthless or alone.

Routine changes

  • Struggling to maintain a routine.
  • Struggling to maintain hygiene or appearance.
  • Poor or disrupted sleep.
  • Changes to eating patterns or rapid weight changes.

Changes to thinking

  • Getting stuck on negative thoughts about yourself and the future.
  • Intrusive thoughts.
  • Trauma flashbacks.
  • Finding it hard to focus or concentrate.
  • Being distracted.

Behaviour changes

  • Self-harming – for more information visit Self-harm and self-injury.
  • Increased alcohol, drug or other substance use.
  • Recklessness and aggression.
  • Giving away sentimental or expensive possessions.

Thinking about suicide

  • Increased thoughts of suicide.
  • Planning or thinking about ways to die.

Find out more about suicidal thoughts, what to do if you’re feeling suicidal, and where to get support at Feeling suicidal.

Create a suicide safety plan

Beyond Now - suicide safety planning app.

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It’s helpful to record personal warning signs in a suicide safety plan, so you know what to look out for.

You can use our Beyond Now suicide safety planning app on your mobile or online.

A personalised safety plan helps you cope by:

  1. recognising your warning signs
  2. making your surroundings safe
  3. reminding you of reasons to live
  4. finding things that can make you feel strong
  5. connecting with people and places
  6. talking to family and friends
  7. getting professional support.

Create a suicide safety plan using Beyond Now

Coping strategies for when suicidal warning signs appear

Suicidal thoughts come and go. Distracting yourself, being in the company of others or doing a positive activity that makes you feel good can help you manage until the suicidal urges subside.

We’ve put together some strategies you can try when you start to notice your suicidal warning signs. What works is different for everyone. These are strategies which users of the Beyond Now suicide safety app told us worked for them.

Connecting with others

Physical and sensory activities

  • Get active – for example, walk, run, cycle, swim, surf, yoga, garden.
  • Take a cold or hot shower.
  • Get under a weighted blanket.
  • Use sensory items, such as touching a soft blanket or lighting a scented candle.

Occupying your mind

  • Immerse yourself in gaming.
  • Listen to music.
  • Watch your favourite movie or TV show.
  • Listen to a podcast.
  • Read a book.
  • Do a puzzle or play a board game.
  • Challenge your negative thoughts.
  • Practise relaxation and breathing exercises.

Changing your surroundings

  • Go outside into nature – visit a park, garden or your own backyard.
  • Spend time in a quiet space – for example, a museum, library or church.
  • Visit somewhere you can be around other people – for example, a café or shopping centre
  • Go to a different room in your house.

Creative expression

  • Write – for example, a story or an entry in your journal
  • Paint or draw
  • Dance or make music
  • Design and make fashion or crafts
  • Get constructive – for example, woodwork or model-making

Keeping busy

  • Do the cleaning or laundry
  • Go grocery shopping
  • Plan your meals for the week

Geoff's story of finding a way through suicidal feelings

“My recovery strategy was to do swimming, in fact, sometimes a lot of swimming.

“It was an easy way for me to use mindfulness… taking the breath, blowing the bubble out in between taking the strokes.”

Watch more stories about finding a way through suicidal feelings