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Young Adults and College Students:
Suicide Warning Signs


The warning signs below indicate that the individual is severely struggling and needs immediate intervention:

  • Feelings of loneliness and hopelessness

  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

  • Increased alcohol/drug use and substance abuse

  • Withdrawing from family and friends/not involved in school activities when individual used to be

  • Anxiety and agitation

  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much

  • Dramatic mood changes

  • Expressing feelings that life is meaningless or that there is no reason to live/making suicidal threats

  • Insomnia

  • Feeling desperate or trapped

  • Seeing no reason for living or having no sense of purpose in life

  • Remember: The risk of suicide may be greatest as the person's depression begins to lift

Certain behaviors can also serve as warning signs, particularly when they are not characteristic of the person's normal behavior. These include:

  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities

  • Engaging in violent or self-destructive behavior

  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society


College students may act in different ways when dealt with large amounts of stress partly because of their age and partly because of their unique schedule and life as a college student. For many students, the first warning sign is pulling out of activities they once liked and pulling away from friends and roommates. The below warning signs are pulled from Western Michigan University and were created to showcase how college students may act when suicidal and/or struggling.

  • A suddenly worsening school performance. Good students who suddenly start ignoring assignments and cutting classes may have problems-including depression or drug and alcohol abuse-that can affect their health and happiness and put them at risk of suicide.

  • Unhealthy peer relationships. Students who don't have friends, or suddenly reject their friends, may be at risk. A friend who suddenly rejects you, claiming, "You just don't understand me any more," may be having emotional problems.

  • Indications that the student is in an abusive relationship. Some young people may be physically or emotionally abused by a member of their family or their girlfriend or boyfriend. Signs that a person may be in an abusive relationship include unexplained bruises or other injuries that he or she refuses to discuss.

  • Signs of an eating disorder. An eating disorder is an obvious sign that someone needs help. A dramatic change in weight that is not the result of a medically supervised diet may also indicate that something is wrong.

  • Difficulty in adjusting to sexual/gender identity. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered young people have higher suicide attempt rates than their heterosexual peers. These youth may be faced with social pressures that make life very difficult.

  • Depression. Depression is an emotional problem that increases a person's risk of suicide. The following signs indicate that someone may be depressed:​

    • Withdrawal from friends and extracurricular activities

    • A sudden, unexplained decline in enthusiasm and energy

    • Overreaction to criticism

    • Lowered self-esteem, or feelings of guilt

    • Indecision, lack of concentration, and forgetfulness/Restlessness and agitation

    • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns

    • Unprovoked episodes of crying

    • Sudden neglect of appearance and hygiene

How Do I Help Someone That Is Talking About Suicide?

Talk With Them

When talking with young adults about mental health or your concerns, don’t be afraid to ask them directly about suicide or self-harm. Talking about suicide isn't going to plant an idea in their head. If they are having suicidal thoughts or are thinking about self-harm, giving them an opportunity to talk about it may help and give them relief. Remember to use your ears and hear what they have to say, as listening and understanding is what is needed in crisis situations. Keeping your voice calm and remaining soft spoken will help alleviate any stress they may have by talking to you. It's important to note that many people struggle with talking about suicide, self harm, and mental health

Openly Listen

When talking with a young adult about suicide, mental health, or if you are sharing your concerns with their recent behavior, listening is always most important. Take the time to hear them, listen to what they say, and allow them to share their feelings. Showing signs of judgement, cutting them off, or not allowing them to finish will have a reverse effect on helping them feel safe and comfortable. Try and resist the urge to give out advice, as understanding and listening is most important at this time. Listening and understanding their pain will help make them feel like you are hearing them. Instead of offering immediate advice, help them connect with resources that can help.


Get Help In A Crisis

If someone is in active crisis, meaning they are actively attempting suicide, seriously considering suicide, or are self harming, getting them help is of utmost importance. Share resources, contact someone that is close to them if you aren't, and contacting emergency services may be necessary if they are in danger or are trying to harm themselves. Use our Resource Headquarters to find relevant resources to share with your friend or family member that is struggling. Supporting someone with suicidal thoughts or in crisis can be draining and have an impact on you. It's important to also take care of yourself during these high stress situations and reach out for help when needed. 

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