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Warning Signs

Listed below are behaviors or actions that may indicate a path towards danger to self or others. These behaviors alone may represent isolated incidents with no apparent trend or potential for harm. However, changes in behaviors over time are often indicative of potential problems and should create a higher level of concern. The best information in behavioral changes, whether they occur over a long or short period of time, is provided by individuals who have an ongoing relationship with the individual. This includes the individual's peers, faculty, co-workers, students and supervisors.

These lists do not include acts of violence or threats. Violent acts and threats are not tolerated at SDSU, and must be reported so that appropriate action can be taken.

Concerning Behaviors

Behaviors do not have to be violations of law or university policy to be of concern. Community members are encouraged to report incidents of concerning behaviors that may not qualify independently as a threat. While the signs, threats and indicators are detailed below, instances of changed behavior that may singly or in combination generate concern include, but are not limited to:

  • References to planning a violent or destructive event or harming others
  • Preoccupation with weapons, violent events or persons who have engaged in violent acts
  • Disruptive or bizarre conduct
  • Extreme and inappropriate reactions or responses, such as angry outbursts
  • Unexplained and alarming changes in behavior or conduct
  • Suicidal comments or threats.

Other violence warning signs and threats

  • Talking louder than appropriate voice in the circumstances
  • Verbal or written abuse or harassment, including direct contact, voicemail, e-mail, social networking sites
  • Conflicts with others
  • Talking about violence, glorification of or reference to other violent incidents
  • Blames other for their problems/not taking personal responsibility
  • Distancing self from others, withdrawn, avoiding others, anxious
  • Concentration or memory problems (may be seen as a worsening of academic or work performance)
  • Use of or increased use of alcohol/drugs
  • Lack of concern for the safety of others
  • Violent outbursts or displays
  • A significant, inadequately or unconvincingly explained increase in absenteeism, especially if the employee or student has previously had consistent attendance
  • Based on perception of abnormal look or actions compared to typical look or action.
  • Anger or excessive irritability
  • Excessive impatience
  • Appearing stressed/hopeless/depressed
  • Steals/sabotages the work of others

Suicidal warning signs

The most effective way to help in preventing suicide is to know the warning signs, take those signs seriously and respond appropriately. Fortunately, people who are suicidal CAN be helped with the proper treatment. Common warning signs of suicide include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Anxiety, agitation, inability to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Expressing no reason for living or no purpose in life
  • Inability to see the future without pain
  • Inability to make decisions or think clearly
  • Decision to stop taking prescribed medication for depression or other psychological disorder
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Other indicators of a person experiencing distress

  • Depression - Symptoms may include sleep disturbances, poor concentration, change in appetite, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, withdrawal, poor hygiene, loss of self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and preoccupations with death.
  • Agitation - Symptoms include being disruptive, restless or hyperactive, antagonistic and may include an increase in alcohol and/or drug abuse.
  • Disorientation - Symptoms may include odd or unusual thinking and behavior, lack of awareness of what is going on around them, misperception of facts or reality, rambling or disconnected speech and behavior that seems out of context or bizarre.
  • Drug and Alcohol Use - Signs of intoxication during work or class or other inappropriate times.

The identification of concerning actions or behaviors may not indicate a path towards destructive behavior. They do indicate the need for support at some level. This process will allow the university to determine the correct level of concern so that appropriate support can be provided.