Overview of Suicide Prevention
We all experience feelings of loneliness, depression, helplessness, and hopelessness from time to time. The death of a family member, the breakup of a relationship, blows to our self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and/or major financial setbacks are serious problems which all of us may have to face at some point in our lives. Because each person's emotional state and resources are unique, each of us responds to situations differently.
The common link among people who consider ending their lives is often the belief that suicide is the only solution to a set of overwhelming feelings. An attraction of suicide is that it will finally end these unbearable feelings. The tragedy of suicide is that intense emotional distress often blinds people to alternative solutions.
At least 70 percent of all people committing suicide give some clue as to their intentions before they make an attempt. Becoming aware of these clues and the severity of the person's problems can help prevent such a tragedy. Many persons convey their intentions directly with statements such as:
- "I feel like killing myself."
- "I don't know how much longer I can take this."
Others in crisis may hint at a detailed suicide plan with statements such as:
- "I've been saving up my pills in case things get really bad."
- "Lately I've been driving my car like I really don't care what happens."
In general, statements describing feelings of depression, helplessness, extreme loneliness, and/or hopelessness may suggest suicidal thoughts. It is important to listen to these indicators because they are usually attempts to communicate to others the need to be understood and helped. Often persons thinking about suicide show outward changes in their behavior. They may prepare for death by giving away prized possessions, making a will, or putting other affairs in order. They may withdraw from those around them, change eating or sleeping patterns, or lose interest in prior activities or relationships. A sudden, intense lift in spirits may also be a danger signal, as it may indicate the person feels a sense of relief believing the problems will "soon be ended."
What Can Be Done
Manage the Immediate Environment
Be aware of and challenge commonly believed myths about suicide so that they don’t get perpetuated.
MYTH: "You have to be crazy even to think about suicide." FACT: Most people have thought of suicide from time to time. Most suicides and suicide attempts are made by intelligent, temporarily confused individuals who are expecting too much of themselves, especially in the midst of a crisis.
MYTH: "Once a person has made a serious suicide attempt, that person is unlikely to make another." FACT: The opposite is often true. Persons who have made prior suicide attempts may be at greater risk of actually committing suicide; for some, suicide attempts may seem easier a second or third time.
MYTH: "If a person is seriously considering suicide, there is nothing you can do." FACT: Most suicide crises are time-limited and based on unclear thinking. Persons attempting suicide want to escape from their problems. Instead, they need to confront their problems directly in order to find solutions to help them through the crisis period.
MYTH: "Talking about suicide may give a person the idea."FACT: The crisis and resulting emotional distress will already have triggered the thought in a vulnerable person. Your openness and concern in asking about suicide will allow the person experiencing pain to talk about the problem and may help reduce his or her anxiety. This may also allow the person with suicidal thoughts to feel less lonely or isolated, and perhaps a bit relieved.
Most suicides can be prevented by sensitive responses to the person in crisis. If you think someone you know may be suicidal, you should:
- Remain calm. In most instances, there is no rush. Sit and listen and give the person understanding and active emotional support for his or her feelings.
- Deal directly with the topic of suicide. Most individuals have mixed feelings about death and dying and are open to help. Don't be afraid to ask or talk directly about suicide.
- Encourage problem solving and positive actions. Remember that the person involved in emotional crisis is not thinking clearly; encourage him or her to refrain from making any serious, irreversible decisions while in a crisis. Talk about the positive alternatives which may establish hope for the future.
- Get assistance. Although you want to help, do not take full responsibility by trying to be the sole counsel. Let the troubled person know you are concerned--so concerned that you are willing to arrange qualified help beyond that which you can offer.
How We Can Help
You can schedule an intake with a counselor at North Hall by calling (530) 752-2349. Urgent Care drop-in services are available on the first floor of the Student Health and Wellness Center.