Sometimes, a person will make actions resembling suicide attempts while not being fully committed, or in a deliberate attempt to have others notice. This is called a suicidal gesture (also known as a "cry for help"). Prototypical methods might be a non-lethal method of self-harm that leaves obvious signs of the attempt, or simply a lethal action at a time when the person considers it likely that he/she will be rescued or prevented from fully carrying it out.
On the other hand, a person who genuinely wishes to die may fail, due to lack of knowledge about what they are doing, unwillingness to try methods that may end in permanent damage if he fails or harms others, or an unanticipated rescue, among other reasons. This is referred to as a suicide attempt.
Distinguishing between a suicide attempt and a suicidal gesture may be difficult. Intent and motivation are not always fully discernible since so many people in a suicidal state are genuinely conflicted over whether they wish to end their lives. One approach, assuming that a sufficiently strong intent will ensure success, considers all near-suicides to be suicidal gestures. This however does not explain why so many people who fail at suicide end up with severe injuries, often permanent, which are most likely undesirable to those who are making a suicidal gesture. (See: self-harming.) Another possibility is those wishing merely to make a suicidal gesture may end up accidentally killing themselves, perhaps by underestimating the lethality of the method chosen or by overestimating the possibility of external intervention by others. Suicide-like acts should generally be treated as seriously as possible because if there is an insufficiently strong reaction from loved ones from a suicidal gesture, this may motivate future, and ultimately more committed attempts.