My friend Steve and I talked about him the last time we met for breakfast.  The three of us had been college classmates but Steve and Rich were closer in those years.  A few years after graduating school, Rich shot himself to death.  Neither of us could remember any sign or warning of his despair.  He was there in our lives and then gone.

IS PATH WARM - Warning Signs of Suicide to Watch Out For

“IS PATH WARM?” is a mnemonic device developed by Lanny Berman, Ph.D. (Executive Director, American Association of Suicidology) to identify acute risk factors for suicide.  I share it with you for we all want to be on our toes for those we care about.

I Ideation - directly or indirectly disclosed thinking of ending one’s life.
S Substance Use - misuse of alcohol or drugs.

P Purposeless - finding no meaning or value in living.
A Anxiety - a regular sense of being on edge; sleep problems.
Trapped - thinking that there is no other solution.
Hopelessness - and it will always be like this.

W Withdrawal - increased isolation from family, friends, and usual activities.
Anger - rage at self or others.
Recklessness - making risky and dangerous choices.
Mood Change - endless despair or a sudden and unexplained release from it.

In the thirty years I have worked as a psychologist, I have gone to court one time to speak with a judge about detaining someone in a hospital because of imminent danger of suicide.  This list captures many of the signs I saw back then.

More information on these suicidal risk factors is available at

On a minor note, I recommend two books to bolster our strength before we get to despair: Endurance by Caroline Alexander and Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand.  These true stories, one of hardship and the other of wartime cruelty, and are breathtaking descriptions of impossible conditions and human triumph.

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