Health And Wellness

Warning Signs Of Suicidal Thoughts People Often Ignore, Explained By A Therapist Who Experienced Them

Photo: Federico Marsicano | Shutterstock 
Woman scared of darkness

The topic of suicide is increasingly finding a place in the limelight, especially now in the wake of the celebrity deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade and the flooding of social media with survivors' stories of pain and hope. As public awareness of suicide, depression, and other mental health issues grows, it's critical to know which warning signs of suicidal thoughts to look for in your own loved ones.

Suicide is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as "death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with intent to die as a result of the behavior." Remember, it does NOT discriminate. Suicide affects those of all ages regardless of race, religion, orientation, and so forth. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health below are quite staggering. (Note that these statistics are more than likely an underreporting of suicide and related suicidal warning signs.)

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  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.
  • Among females, those aged 45-54 were the highest suicide rates in 2024.
  • Among males, those aged 65 and higher had the highest suicide rates in 2024.
  • The total suicide rate has increased 28% from 10.5 to 13.4 per 100,000 population.
  • Suicide rates among males are about four times higher (21.3 per 100,000) than among females (6 per 100,000).

As most know, well-known designer Kate Spade died by suicide. Her husband released a statement in which he made a point of saying she had been actively receiving treatment for depression. What's more, in his statement he notes how happy she seemed the night before, and that "[there] was no indication and no warning that she would do this." Anthony Bourdain, 61 years old, died by suicide on June 8, 2018. Looking at the surface — his many successful shows, his passion as a chef, his multiple awards, and his apparent zest for life — it was difficult for many to reconcile that he, too, struggled with painful thoughts during private moments out of the spotlight.



No one ever truly can know the battles someone else fights within themselves. Why have some people reported their loved one "sounded happy" or "appeared to be having fun" just days before that person took their own life? Having lost people to suicide — and being someone who has attempted suicide myself — I can shed a little light as to why this may be. There is one word that describes the way some people feel when they've decided to carry out a plan to kill themselves, and strange as it may seem to those who haven't been there, that word is "peace."

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I’m sure many of you are now thinking to yourselves, "What is this person talking about?” But imagine how much peace and comfort you might experience if you knew those things in your life that feel simply unbearable would no longer exist. You might begin feeling your stomach unknot itself from its formerly constant anxiety. You might breathe a little easier, finally able to take deep breaths. You might also see those around you in a different light, imagining your loved ones, although falsely, laughing and free knowing you were no longer feeling your pain.

For me, imagining such things gave me a sense of peace, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. People who have made up their minds about taking their own lives often feel this sense of peace or calm, because they know they’ll no longer suffer or make others suffer. Just over a month after Chester Bennington, lead vocalist of the band Linkin Park, took his life on July 20, 2017, his wife, Talinda, posted a picture she'd taken of them with their kids on Twitter. In the image, Chester appears to be having fun and feeling happy.

A subtle sign someone may be experiencing suicidal ideation that is often missed is the elation and happiness some feel just before carrying out their plan. I’m not saying that everyone who dies by suicide experiences this, or people who are depressed but not suicidal aren't also happy or giddy at times. As with everything else, it all depends on the circumstances and what is going on in their lives and their mind at the time.

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What I am suggesting, however, is not to overlook this potential sign by being naive and believing everything must be okay if someone you know experiencing issues is suddenly joyous and laughing. There may be deeply serious feelings of pain behind those smiles, with a lot of laughter being called on to cover up their internal cries. It doesn't matter how much money someone has or if they are working at their ultimate dream job. People may seem to have it all on the surface, and maybe they do, but that can also be one of the many masks they wear so others won’t catch onto how badly they’re suffering on the inside.



Imagine the amount of pain one must be going through to believe their only alternative for relief is to take their own life. It is not a selfish way of thinking, as many may think it is. In reality, all they’re doing is trying to relieve the pain and misery they’re going through, just as you might feel desperate to rid yourself of chronic pain or a migraine. Life is hard, and choices aren't always easy. There are times when people can’t see even a minute ahead of themselves, let alone see how their absence might affect loved ones in the future. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, please contact a friend, family member, or any trusted person in your life. Do not be afraid to reach out. You are not weak. You are brave. Reach out before it’s too late.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, there is a way to get help. Please call or text the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.

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Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor. She writes about relationships, psychology, and personality topics.