College is a time of significant transition. Many students face great stress from a variety of sources, such as:
- increased academic demands
- adjusting to a new environment
- developing a new support system
- and experimenting with alcohol and drugs
which may compound problems with mood and increase the risk for suicide.
Many students come to college with a prior history of mental health difficulties or treatment.
Sixteen percent of college students reported being diagnosed with a depressive disorder in a recent national survey, many within the last year. Over 90% of persons who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder, typically a depressive disorder or substance abuse disorder.
- Most suicidal persons want to live but cannot see alternatives to their problems.
- Most suicidal persons give warnings of their intentions, but others are unaware or do not know how to respond.
- Talking about suicide does not cause someone to be suicidal.
- Just because a person talks about suicide (expresses their feelings) does not mean they are no longer at risk for suicide.
- Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention.
The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and seems related to a painful event, loss or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible by calling or texting 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
- Deteriorating academic performance
- Depression, dramatic mood changes
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Anxiety or agitation
- Uncontrolled anger or rage
- Engaging in risky activities
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Neglecting appearance and hygiene
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Giving away prized possessions
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Sleeping too little or too much
Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt or die by suicide.
- Depression and other mental disorders or a substance abuse disorder
- Stressful life events, in combination with other risk factors such as depression
- A prior suicide attempt
- Family history of mental disorder, substance abuse or suicide
- A history of family violence or abuse
- Access to a firearm or other lethal means such as medications
- Major physical illnesses
- Job or financial loss
- Loss of relationship
- Easy access to lethal means
- Lack of social support and sense of isolation
- Stigma associated with asking for help
- Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)
- Show interest and be supportive.
- Be direct; ask them if they consider suicide or have a plan.
- Don't be judgmental, give advice or try to talk them out of suicide.
- Don't swear to secrecy.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available.
- Don't leave the person alone.
- Take action, remove means and assist them in getting the help they need.
- Call 911.
- Calling or text 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
- Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated (e.g., depression or anxiety)
- Solutions to your problems do exist, even though you are currently unable to see them
- Suicidal crises are almost always temporary
- Do not keep your thoughts to yourself; help is available for you
- Drive or have someone take you to a local emergency room for an evaluation
- If you need immediate assistance, call 911
- Call or text 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Source: University of Georgia Counseling Center; "Understanding Risk and Protective Factors for Suicide; Risk and protective factors for suicide" by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline