If you’re worried that a loved one, friend or colleague is displaying signs of depression and/or suicide, there are ways you can help.

Suicide Warning Signs

  • Regularly talking or joking about suicide. Often, a person considering suicide talks about death and killing themselves, and often in a joking manner.
  • Depression. A growing sense of hopelessness as a result of clinical depression should serve as a serious warning sign.
  • Preparing for death. In many cases, a person starts giving away valuable items to loved ones and even says goodbye either in person, in writing or via an online post.
  • Self-criticism. Listen to what a person says. If they are constantly saying things like “I’m useless” or “I should give it all up”, it could be a sign of something serious.
  • Personality changes. A person begins to isolate him-/herself and no longer enjoys the things they used to. They are also aggressive, irritable and overly negative.
  • Hygiene and appearance. As people become more depressed and overwhelmed, they start to neglect hygiene and their personal appearance. Loss of appetite is also a common warning sign to look out for.
  • Sudden improvement. In many cases, a sudden improvement in mood and mindset could be a serious warning sign. This could sometimes indicate the person has chosen a date on which to commit suicide and feels the pain will soon come to an end.
  • Obsessing over death. Whether it’s through music, writing, or images—if a person seems overly preoccupied with themes of death you should consider talking to them to find out more.
  • Self-harm. Often, a person begins to use or increases their use of drugs or alcohol or starts injuring themselves deliberately. While this isn’t always a sign of suicidal tendencies, it should be taken seriously.

How You Can Help

It’s never easy to talk to someone you suspect may be suicidal. But if you remember these simple rules you’ll make the entire process much easier on both you and the person you care about.

  • Ask: Don’t wait for the person to come to you for help. Ask them if they need help, or if they’re okay. If the person’s recent actions or conversations have left you worried, ask them if they’ve been having thoughts about hurting themselves and let the conversation develop from there.
  • Listen: Pay close attention to what a person says. Don’t interrupt while they’re opening up to you and avoid coming across as judgmental. Reassure the person that they’re safe and being cared for.
  • Tell: Don’t keep the situation to yourself. You will need to tell a friend, parent, teacher, trusted colleague or professional.

Who To Contact

Seeking help to deal with suicidal feelings isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a proactive step towards turning your life around, so contact someone to give you the help you need.

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0800 12 13 14


Helpline: 0800 567 567

SMS: 31393

Lifeline SA

Helpline: 0861 322 322

Sources: SADAG, Lifeline SA


  • 011 728 1331
  • 011 728 3497
  • 2 The Avenue
  • Cnr Henrietta Street
  • Norwood, Johannesburg
  • 011 728 1347