Suicidal Intent: Identifying It With 3 Important Questions

Suicidal thoughts Suicide is always an uncomfortable topic.

Would you know how to monitor for suicidal thoughts?

Would you know what to look for in someone considering suicide?

If not, you’re certainly not alone.

Suicide intent can sneak up on victims and shock family and friends. Most people struggle to correctly identify the intensity of someone’s suicidal thoughts and intent. It isn’t easy to figure this out because humans are so complex.

This article will discuss 3 important questions you can ask someone who may be contemplating ending their own life.

When I see parents in my office for the first time I ask them to provide me with a “list” of behaviors of their child or teen that caused them to think their child wanted to kill themselves. When parents do this I often find they struggle to come up with behaviors to share. One reason for this is because every child is different and depending on what has happened in school or among peers for that day, alarming behaviors may cease temporarily.

As a result, it is important that we become knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms that someone is exploring and contemplating suicide. Most people struggle with where to start and aren’t comfortable bringing the topic up. No matter how close you may feel to the person possibly considering suicide, the topic is daunting.


Questions to ask

In the video below, I discuss the 3 most important questions you should ask someone who you suspect may be considering suicide:

  1. Are you thinking about suicide?
  2. How often do you think about it? On a scale from 1-10 (10 = worse) how intense are your thoughts?
  3. Do you have a plan or know what you would do?


When I ask clients why they are considering suicide I often notice 3 major reasons:

  1. Existential crisis: Having questions about what this life is all about. A lot of “why” questions.
  2. Religious and philosophical questioning: Wondering if there is a God and if so, why is pain and suffering permitted.
  3. Inability to master their environment or the things in their lives that make them feel helpless or hopeless.


In this video, I discuss 3 things you need to ask someone who is considering suicide.


In this video, I discuss reasons for suicide most people keep secret.


This article was originally published 2/18/18 but has been updated to reflect comprehensiveness and accuracy.