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Warning Signs

Fifty to 75 percent of all suicide victims give some warning signs of their intentions in the week before. Familiarize yourself with the signs and register for suicide prevention training.

Signs of High Risk for Suicide

Those who are in danger of suicide will most often:

  • Threaten to hurt or kill themselves or speak of wanting to hurt or kill themselves
  • Look for ways to kill themselves by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
  • Talk or write about death, dying or suicide in a way that's out of the ordinary

If you observe these signs...

  1. Call 911 immediately or take the person to the nearest emergency room.
  2. Call the Counseling Center at 803-777-5223 and send a report to the Behavioral Intervention Team. This ensures the team members at USC have the information they need to respond, if necessary.


Distress Signs

If someone displays these warning signs, take the situation seriously, talk to them directly and be willing to listen. 

Use the acronym IS PATH WARM? to remember these signs.

Ideation: Threatened, communicated, spoken or written
Substance Abuse: Excessive or increased use
Purposelessness: Feeling or stating that there is no reason for living
Anxiety: Agitation, inability to sleep or sleeping all the time
Trapped Feeling: Feeling or stating that there is no way out
Hopelessness: Feeling or stating that things will never get better
Withdrawal: From family, friends and society
Anger: Uncontrolled rage or seeking revenge
Recklessness: Risky or impulsive acts that are out of character
Mood Change: A dramatic shift

Ask the person if they are thinking about suicide.

Asking them will not “put the idea” about suicide in their head.

How to Ask
Ask directly “Are you thinking of suicide?” or “It seems like you feel like things aren’t going to get better. Sometimes when people feel as if things aren’t going to get better, they think about killing themselves. Have you been thinking about killing yourself?”

Don't Give Up
You may need to be persistent, but gentle, before they are willing to open up and talk. If you can’t ask them about suicide, find someone who can — a counselor or Residence Life staff member

Take It Seriously and Listen
Imminent signs must be taken seriously. Show your care and concern, validate the person's emotions and offer hope.

  • Be non-judgmental and do not debate whether suicide is right or wrong.
  • Express concern. Be as direct and specific as possible in stating your reasons for concern.
  • Be available — show interest, understanding and support.

Do not attempt to argue someone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care, that he or she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are often temporary and that there is help available.


Sign up for Training

Become a Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper. Take the training to recognize the signs of distress and learn to get help for those who are struggling.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.