Sometimes, when someone is experiencing emotional distress that escalates, they begin to believe that suicide is the only way to alleviate the pain. This can be frightening for those around him or her, and at other times, it can be confusing as to why those circumstances would lead someone to contemplate taking one’s own life. If you or someone you know is experiencing these thoughts, please get help immediately from CU Medical Services or Counseling Services.
Possible Contributing Factors
It’s important to remember that a crisis for one person may not be a crisis for another. For some, things that are more common life occurrences, such as failing a class, a relationship breakup, or any other perceived loss of control in one’s life, can trigger suicidal thoughts. For others, more significant life events like divorce, illness or injury, the death of a friend or family member, or chronic loneliness can lead one to become suicidal.
Here are some warning signs that someone may be considering suicide. These are listed in mild-to-severe order:
- Trouble eating and/or sleeping
- Poor class attendance/academic performance/personal appearance
- Excessive irritability or impulsivity
- Stronger expressions of sadness, anxiety or anger than is typical for that person
- Failure to live up to their own or others’ expectations – experiencing excessive guilt
- Increased isolation/social withdrawal
- Feelings of hopelessness/being trapped – like there’s no way out*
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking*
- Increased alcohol or drug use*
- Expressing no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life*
- Suicidal ideation, plans and/or means
- Previous suicide attempts
- Giving away possessions
- Describing a plan or writing a good-bye letter
- Items marked with * taken from www.ulifeline.org
What You Can Do
If you observe these changes in mood or behavior, here are some tangible ways you can offer support:
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.*
- Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.*
- Ask if the student is talking to anyone about the problem.
- Be willing to listen. Allow for expression of feelings. Accept the feelings.*
- Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
- Express your concern in behavioral, non-judgmental terms.
- Yes- “I’ve noticed you’ve been absent from class lately and I’m concerned.”
- No- “Where have you been lately? You should be more concerned about your grades.”
- Listen to thoughts and feelings in a sensitive, non-threatening way.
- Don’t dare him/her to do it.*
- Don’t act shocked. This creates distance.*
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.*
- Offer hope that alternatives are available - do not offer glib reassurance; it only proves you don’t understand.*
- Items marked with * taken from http://www.suicidology.org/web/guest/how-can-you-help
When the Situation Gets Serious
When some of the above signs listed above are present, here is a helpful tool for remembering how to assess the severity of the situation:
Specificity of a plan (the more specific, the higher the risk).
Lethality of method (how quickly would enactment result in death).
Availability of method (is the means for implementing readily available?).
Proximity of social or helping resources (is the person isolated?).
What You Should Do
If the student is in immediate danger, take the steps in response
- Call 911 or ambulance, police, and/or fire department.
- Stay with the student.
- Call an RD/Dean/Counselor/the RA to provide support.
- Do not take the student to the hospital; if he or she is not stable, you cannot guarantee your safety or the safety of the student while en route.
Facts about Suicide
- Research has shown medications and therapy to be effective suicide prevention. (SAVE)
- Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year. (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or SAVE)
- Many who attempt suicide never seek professional care. (SAVE)
- 15% of those who are clinically depressed die by suicide. (SAVE)
- The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression. (SAVE)
- Males complete suicide at a rate four times that of females. However, females attempt suicide three times more often than males. (American Association of Suicidology)
- By 2010, depression will be the #1 disability in the world. (World Health Organization)
- Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans. (CDC)
"Common Misconceptions about Suicide" from SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education)
"Suicide and the Silence of Scripture" from the July 2000 issue of Christianity Today
- This article addresses what Scripture does and doesn't say about suicide.
"Good Question: Is Suicide Unforgiveable?" from the July 2000 issue of Christianity Today
- What are the spiritual implications of suicide? This article focuses on preventative measures for those struggling with depression.
"Suicide – A Preventable Tragedy?" from the June 2000 issue of Christianity Today
- Christians should support people who are depressed and/or suicidal, but we often don’t know how to do this. This article provides guidelines for knowing how to support and comfort people who have lost a family member to suicide.
American Foundation for Suicide Presentation
"The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide."
- taken from ASFP's website
The Jed Foundation
"College and the transition to adulthood is a time of infinite possibilities. But for students struggling with unaddressed mental health problems, those possibilities fade.
As the nation’s leading organization working to reduce emotional distress and prevent suicide among college students, The Jed Foundation is protecting the mental health of students across the country."
– from The Jed Foundation's website
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
"Are you feeling desperate, alone or hopeless? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. 800-273-8255 (TALK)"
– from National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's website