Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Suicides do not always happen as single events. In this section we provide some helpful information concerning suicide and ways to approach your suicidal feelings, or individuals with whom you are concerned.
The suicidal person is intensely ambivalent about killing himself or herself and typically responds to help; suicidal states are definitely time limited, and most who commit suicide are neither "crazy" nor psychotic. High risk indicators include: feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and futility; a severe loss or threat of loss; a detailed suicidal plan; history of a previous attempt; history of alcohol or drug abuse; and feelings of alienation and isolation.
Suicidal students usually want to communicate their feelings, and the inability to do so results in a rage or anger directed toward themselves.
The following can be associated with risk for suicide. In general, the more of these factors a student has experienced and the greater the severity, the higher the risk for suicide.
- Has suicidal thoughts, plans and or means
- Recent significant loss
- Failure to live up to their own or others' expectations
- Increased isolation/social withdrawal
- Inability to experience pleasure or have fun
- Alcohol/other drug use
- Poor class attendance/poor academic performance
- Concerns about sexual orientation
- Change in personality
- Giving away possessions
- Sexual promiscuity
- Previous suicide attempts
- Feelings of hopelessness/despair
- Off-handed comments about not being around or about death
- Impassivity and/or violence
- See death as the only way to end their suffering
- Thoughts of suicide
- Appears to be in a fog
- Recent sexual assault
Take the feelings and statements of the individual seriously—80 percent of suicidal individuals give warning of their intent. Don’t minimize the situation or depth of feeling, e.g., "Oh it will be much better tomorrow." Acknowledge that a threat of or attempt at suicide is a plea for help. Don’t be afraid to ask the person if they are so depressed or sad that they want to hurt themselves e.g., "You seem so upset and discouraged that I'm wondering if you are considering suicide."
Be available to listen, to talk, to be concerned, but refer the student to the Counseling Center (440-775-8470). Don’t over commit yourself and, therefore, not be able to deliver on what you promise. Don’t ignore your limitations. Helping someone who is suicidal is hard, demanding, and draining work. Take steps to take care of yourself.
Express your concern to the individual and state the risk factors you have observed. Ask about the other risk factors. Ask about suicidal thoughts directly, and use the word suicide. This does not increase the risk of a suicide occurring. In fact, individuals are often relieved to have someone to talk to.
Assist the person to find solutions to their problems other than suicide. Never agree to keep serious suicidal thoughts in confidence. It is important that an individual with serious suicidal thoughts meet with a counseling professional so the student or individual may receive the necessary support. When possible, follow-up with the individual.
If you or someone has suicidal thoughts or feelings, contact the Counseling Center at 440-775-8470, or an area coordinator in Residential Education. The professional staff is highly trained and experienced in consulting with concerned others and counseling persons expressing suicidal intent. In addition, the Lorain County Mental Health Hotline is available for emergency assistance or consultation 24/7 at 1-800-888-6161 or 1-440-204-4145.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255