Suicidal Warning Signs in a Co-Worker

September is Suicide Prevention Month. We’re sharing 15 warning signs that your co-worker could be considering death by suicide. In the event of immediate danger, call 911. If not an emergency, call 988 or your EAP.

Observing a deeply unhappy and obviously stressed colleague can be scary and confusing. You may not know this person well enough to feel comfortable approaching them with your concern and questions.

If your intuition is wrong, you may feel embarrassed. But if your intuition is correct, you could save their life.

Warning Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

People considering suicide may show warning signs. Since you see co-workers on a regular basis, you know how they usually talk, act, and react to stress in the workplace. You can sometimes sense changes in their personality and behavior.

Specific warning signs of potential suicide include:

  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, and pessimistic
  • Sudden unexplained deterioration of work performance
  • Talking about suicide or death
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Constant sadness with frequent episodes of crying
  • Irritability or pervasive anxiety
  • Increasing substance abuse
  • Neglect of appearance and deterioration of cleanliness
  • Uncharacteristic isolation from others
  • Making statements such as “I wish I were dead” or “I’m going to end it all.”
  • Dramatic differences in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Loss of focus and concentration
  • Indirect verbal cues such as “Why go on?” or “Soon you won’t have to worry about me.”
  • Giving away valued possessions
  • Sudden and unexplained improvement in mood after being obviously depressed and/or withdrawn

What to Do if You Observe These Signs of Suicide

Talking to someone about suicide won’t cause or increase suicidal thoughts. Nor cause the person to act on them. Talking can help them feel less isolated and scared. Be respectful of their privacy. But use very direct statements such as, “Do you feel like you want to die?” Or, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”

If the response is yes, offer to help them contact your EAP or find another source of mental health counseling. You can also suggest calling the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. The previous National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) also remains available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.

If you feel the person is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone until you have found help. You may need to get assistance from 911 first responders, co-workers, the person’s family, or your Human Resources department.

Be hopeful. People can and do get better.

Other Ways You Can Help Prevent Suicide

For a deeper understanding, take the Mental Health First Aid training course through the National Counsel for Mental Wellbeing. Mental Health First Aid is a “skills-based training course that teaches participants about mental health and substance-use issues. The training helps you identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions, and mental illness.”