What to look for: warning signs of suicidal thoughts 

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K. Pierre Eklou, assistant professor in the School of Nursing, shares expertise on what behaviors may be signs of suicidal thoughts and how to help. 

The pandemic has increased general awareness and promotion of mental health; however, roughly 46,000 Americans die by suicide each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This translates to about one death every 11 minutes. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-14 and 25-34.  

During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month (September), K. Pierre Eklou, assistant professor in the Department of Nursing, shines light on this often-stigmatized topic and promotes suicide prevention. 

“Suicide does not occur in a vacuum. There are always warning signs; knowing those can help prevent suicide,” said Eklou, who is a Board-Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and runs Mason’s PMHNP program. “Suicidal thoughts can manifest differently in each person, so there’s a range of behaviors to watch for. If you are worried about someone, seek help. If you are worried about yourself, seek help. You are not alone.”  

Warning Signs of Suicidal Thoughts 

  • Thoughts or discussion of wanting to die or having no reason to live 

  • Thoughts of being a burden to others 

  • Feeling isolated or withdrawn 

  • Engaging in risky or reckless behavior 

  • Exhibiting mood swings 

  • Lack of interest in future plans 

  • Increasing use of alcohol or other illicit substances 

  • Acting anxious or agitated  

  • Sleeping too much or too little 

  • Giving away possessions 

  • Saying “goodbye” to family, friends, or loved ones 

  • Looking for ways to kill oneself 

What should you do if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts? 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone, and help is available. If you know someone who is exhibiting suicidal warning signs, reach out to them and a professional for help. View Mason’s list of suicide prevention resources here. 

Anyone in the United States can call or text 988, the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, to be connected to trained counselors who will listen, understand how someone’s problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary. The National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is working to change the conversation from “suicide” to “suicide prevention” to promote help and healing and to give hope. 

If you are in crisis or having suicidal thoughts, contact 988 the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. 


Dr. Kossi Pierre Eklou is an assistant professor for the School of Nursing at George Mason University. He is a Board-Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) and is Mason’s PMHNP program coordinator. Eklou’s education and research interests include psychiatric/mental health nursing, substance use disorders, and population health with a focus on the underserved. Born in Togo (West Africa), Eklou has a particular interest in the mental health care and education of those living in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

For media inquiries about Mason’s mental and behavioral health faculty experts, contact Michelle Thompson at 703-993-3485 or mthomp7@gmu.edu. 


About Mason 

George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public research university, enrolls 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility. In 2022, Mason celebrates 50 years as an independent institution. Learn more at http://www.gmu.edu

About the College of Health and Human Services 

The College of Health and Human Services prepares students to become leaders and to shape the public's health through academic excellence, research of consequence, community outreach, and interprofessional clinical practice. The College enrolls more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students in its nationally-recognized offerings, including 6 undergraduate degrees, 13 graduate degrees, and 6 certificate programs. The college is transitioning to a college of public health in the near future. For more information, visit https://chhs.gmu.edu/


Thumbnail photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash.