Suicide is the act of deliberately taking one’s own life.
Suicide is the act of deliberately taking one’s own life. It is the second leading cause of death among college students today. Most people who are suicidal don’t actually want to die. They just can’t see any other relief from painful thoughts or feelings. Almost all people who die by suicide are suffering from an emotional disorder, most commonly depression. Other emotional problems — such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, or eating disorders — can increase the risk for suicide, too. Identifying and treating these mental health conditions is especially important because sufferers may be more likely to attempt suicide in the wake of a stressful event such as a death, relationship difficulties, or a failed exam.
Many students who die by suicide have given warnings of their intentions to family and friends. Most suicidal people are undecided about living or dying. Part of them wants to live. Another part feels trapped or hopeless. They sometimes gamble with death — talking about or attempting suicide in a way that leaves room for other people to save them. Some call this the “cry for help.” That’s why understanding the warning signs, and acting quickly to get help, is so crucial in suicide prevention. There is hope. People who are suicidal can be helped with the proper treatment.
More often that not, individuals who are contemplating suicide will give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. All suicide threats, gestures, and attempts must be taken seriously. Here are some warning signs that a person may be at risk for suicide:
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Feeling trapped or like there’s no way out
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
- Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Dramatic mood changes
- Expressing no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life
- Prior suicide attempts
If you are having thoughts of suicide or any type of self-harm, contact your school’s health center or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) to speak with a trained professional and get connected to a mental health provider on or near your campus. It’s available 24 hours a day nationwide. You can also dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
People who are suicidal can get effective treatment, which may include counseling and/or medication. Treatment focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying emotional problems that a suicidal person may have.
The most effective way to prevent suicide is to know the warning signs and know how to respond when you experience them yourself or see them in a friend. Take any comments or thoughts about suicide very seriously. A suicidal person should not be left alone and should get professional help immediately.
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Are you worried a friend or loved one is at risk for suicide? You may see warning signs they can’t or don’t want to acknowledge. Maybe that person has threatened to hurt or kill him or herself, or talked about doing so. Perhaps you’ve noticed that he or she has uncharacteristically started writing or obsessing about death, or tried to get guns or pills. Don’t assume the problem will go away on its own, or that your friend can just “snap out of it.”
Before talking about your concerns with your friend, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about suicide and suicidal thoughts. Explain to your friend that lately they’ve been behaving in ways that worry you. Some people get defensive or angry when they’re confronted; your conversation may go more smoothly if you don’t judge, get upset, or make accusations. Instead, try listening to your friend and asking open-ended questions about his feelings. It is important to listen closely and take any ideas about suicide very seriously.
Should you witness, hear, or see anyone exhibiting any suicidal warning signs, get help immediately by contacting a mental health professional, calling your college’s emergency number, or calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can also call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.