Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Someone in trouble may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. Suicide may result from distorted rational thinking and decision-making, not from a lack of character or moral weakness. Usually people who engage in suicidal behaviors or acts don’t want to die, they just want to be free of the pain.
Approximately 80% of people who have engaged in suicidal acts have sent out warning signs to those around them. Suicidal ideation (thoughts) and behaviors can be triggered by a stressful event or major crisis, such as the death of a family member or friend, end of a significant relationship, or being academically dismissed from school. It is important to remember that what makes events stressful is individualized, what may seem relatively trivial to one person may seem devastating to another.
High-risk signs of suicidal intent: negative perceptions of self-and/or life; intense feelings of hopelessness, unbearable pain, and/or perceived burdensomeness; feelings of alienation and isolation; possessing lethal means; a personal and/or family history of depression; previous suicidal acts; history of self-harming acts; history of substance abuse; sudden and unusually relief or improvement from pain and/or situation; and giving away prized possessions.
A person experiencing suicidality is often intensely ambivalent about killing themselves and is usually open to talking about their suicidal concerns. People at greater risk of engaging in lethal suicide acts may talk about or frequently write about death, research ways to kill themselves and/or have a specific plan for taking their own life, have the means to carry out the act (e.g., medication, knives, firearms), may have substance abuse issues, and tend to be socially isolated.
Imminent danger signs: highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression); inability to communicate clearly (disjointed thoughts, slurred speech); loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things not there, beliefs at odds with reality); suicide plan (suicide is a current option); or suicidal/homicidal threats. In such cases, call 9-1-1.
If someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, suicide ideation, and/or engaging in suicidal behaviors and wants to talk to someone anonymously, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK is a free, 24-hour service for anyone in crisis, emotional distress or just needing someone to listen or talk to.
When you suspect a person is experiencing suicidality:
1. Seek assistance. The following resources are available to help you.
- University Health Services (208) 426-1459
- Employee Assistance Program (208) 426-1616
- Campus Security and Police Services (208) 426-6911
2. Submit a Care Report.
- Call 9-1-1 if you believe the person is in immediate danger.
- Be direct. Ask the person if they are feeling suicidal, if they have a plan, and if they have the means to carry out that plan. This type of communication may decrease the impulse to engage in suicidal behaviors (at least temporarily as it relieves the pressure).
- Be non-judgmental. Acknowledge the threat as a plea for help.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Be supportive. Express your concern about the situation. Let the person know that their life is important and help is available.
- Reassure the person things can be better. Offer to help the person take steps to get professional assistance.
- If possible, walk the person to Counseling Services (NORCO Building).
- Don’t be worried that you’re overreacting. Many of the warning signs for suicide could also indicate other problems that still need professional intervention. When in doubt, report.
- Act shocked. This will put distance between you. All threats need to be handled as potentially lethal.
- Argue or debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life. This encourages defensiveness.
- Minimize the situation or offer ways to fix their problems. This will not help.
- Be afraid to ask the person about their intent and/or plans of suicide.
- Be sworn to secrecy.
- Over commit yourself and not be able to deliver what you promised.
- Allow the person’s friends to take care of the them without seeking professional help.
- Blame yourself.
Submit a Care Report