What is Suicide & How to Intervene
After accidents and homicides, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults ages 15-24. It can be prevented. Men are more likely to commit suicide than women. They usually use violent means to end their own lives. Females, on the other hand, are more likely to attempt suicide. They usually use drugs or poison to try and end their lives. You should note that a suicide attempt is a "cry for help" and a request for social support. The suicidal person is letting his/her feelings be known. His/her problems seem overwhelming and too difficult to handle.
Why do College Students Kill Themselves?
Because each individual is unique there is no single reason as to why a student commits suicide. However, there are several factors that may contribute to a student having suicidal thoughts. These include:
- Major life transition, such as loss of a loved one, breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, moving to a new town or school, failing an exam or course, not getting into one's choice of major, etc. These major life changes can cause a college student to feel unloved, depressed, isolated and lonely.
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Problems in living seem more than one can bear. No matter what one does things do not seem to be getting better and no one seems to care or can help.
- Negative feelings about oneself. A student who is suicidal experiences feelings of worthlessness and of being a failure. He/she may not be doing well in school or may not be excelling in academic or social areas that are of interest.
- Wanting to end unbearable pain/problems that are so overwhelming.
- Alcohol and substance abuse can cause a student to lose self control and engage in impulsive suicidal behaviors.
Note that depression is a major contributing factor to suicidal thinking. Depression may result from several factors, including the recent loss of a family member or friend, disappointments in romantic relationships, or failure to live up to one's own or others expectations.
Myths and Facts About Suicide
There are many myths about suicide:MYTH
- Asking a student if he/she is thinking about suicide will put the idea into his/her head.
- Once a student decides to commit suicide there is no way of stopping him/her.
- Suicide happens without warning.
- Students who commit suicide are mentally ill.
- Discussing the problem openly shows the suicidal student that someone cares and wants to help.
- Most students who are suicidal do not want to die. They are making a "cry for help".
- 75% of the people who attempt or commit suicide have shown some warning sign(s).
- Students who are suicidal are not necessarily mentally ill.
There are verbal and non-verbal warning signs of suicide that will let you know that your classmate or friend is crying for help.NON-VERBAL warning signs include:
- Giving away personal or prized possessions.
- Increased alcohol or drug use.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Lack of interest in personal appearance.
- Lack of interest in friends.
- Lack of interest in social activities that were formerly of interest.
- Poor performance in school.
- Boredom, restlessness, and loss of concentration.
Please note that many of these warning signs are signs of depression. Depression does not necessarily mean that a person is contemplating suicide. But depressed people often think of suicide.VERBAL warning signs include such negative statements as:
- "Instructors, classmates, families and friends do not care."
- "Life isn't worthwhile."
- "People are better off without me."
- "Everything seems to be going wrong."
- "I don't need this any more."
Ways to Help
- Talk openly and freely and ask direct questions about the student's intention.
- Listen to what is said and treat it seriously. Do not add to your friend/classmate's guilt by debating, arguing or lecturing about whether or not suicide is right or wrong.
- NEVER leave a student who is suicidal alone.
- Encourage the student to seek help.
- Get help immediately.
Help! Where to find it.
Counseling Services (645-2720)
120 Richmond Quad
Crisis Services Hotline
24 hour telephone hotline
Mental Health Clinic (829-3316
University Police (645-2228)
Emergency Use Only (645-2222)
Campus Ministers and Advisors (645-2998)
Copyright - Counseling Services, State University of New York at Buffalo