Suicide is a very serious problem within the US population and among young people in particular. The suicide rate greatly exceeds the homicide rate in our country, and in the last fifteen years vastly more Americans have died from suicide than from AIDS and HIV-related illnesses. During our lifetime, 1 in 5 of us will experience a suicide within our immediate family, and 60% of us will personally know someone who dies by suicide.
Epidemiological data indicate that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students, as well as for people between the ages of 24 and 34. College is a time of major life change in which a young person leaves the comfort and familiarity of home to enter an unfamiliar environment with multiple and competing academic, extracurricular, and social demands. These stressors may worsen pre-existing emotional problems or even create new ones.
- Risk Factors
Most people who die by suicide are experiencing one or more serious psychiatric disorders, most commonly Major Depressive Disorder, an alcohol- or substance-related disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, or a personality disorder. If a person has a history of a prior suicide attempt, the probability of a future suicide attempt substantially increases. Other risk factors include a family history of suicide or attempts, easy access to lethal means, a history of family violence or childhood trauma, major physical illness or chronic pain, and a history of being bullied.
- Facts about Suicide
- At least half of all people who die by suicide communicate their intent to another person.
- Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. However, women attempt suicide three times more often than men.
- Single catastrophic events do not cause a person to commit suicide. People who die by suicide have serious psychiatric disorders. However, a single traumatic event may serve as the "last straw" that triggers an attempt.
- Suicides tend to occur shortly after a person begins to show some improvement in mood. During this time, motivation and energy become high enough to plan and complete a suicide. In fact, the highest suicide rates occur among people who have been recently hospitalized for a suicide attempt.
- Most people who die by suicide are in fact ambivalent about whether they want to live or die. They may express their ambivalence by attempting suicide in such a way that there is a possibility someone may find them and stop them.
- Talking to a person about suicide will not "put the idea in their head" or push him or her to act on suicidal thoughts. In fact, talking to a depressed person about suicide does not increase risk for suicide at all.
- When to Worry
It is estimated that about 80% of the time, people who die by suicide have either talked about suicide or shown some other warning sign. Observing one or more of the following signs in a roommate or friend may indicate a problem.
- Observable signs of serious depression include extremely low mood, social withdrawal, disrupted appetite and sleep, failure to carry out typical daily activities, and verbal expressions of hopelessness and pessimism.
- Increased use of alcohol and/or other substances.
- Emotional reactivity, such as marked irritability, outbursts of extreme anger, or intense crying episodes.
- An increase in impulsive or risk-taking behavior.
- Taking about suicide or expressing a wish to die.
- Signs a person may be developing a suicide plan include giving away belongings and/or money and obtaining lethal means such as a gun.
- What to Do
It is important to remember that talking to someone about your worries will not push him or her to attempt suicide. Although it can be very anxiety-provoking to talk to someone about your concerns, it is so important to do so. You may be the only one who says anything, or the only one who even notices all of the warning signs. Expressing your worry may make all of the difference. Following are some suggestions for talking to a friend about your concerns.
- Be honest and sincere. Describe as concretely as possible the signs you have noticed. Clearly express your desire to help.
- Ask your friend about what he or she has been going through. Show you are ready to listen, and you are not afraid to hear or talk about difficult topics including suicide.
Note: Do NOT minimize your friend's experience or emotional pain with statements such as "People get through much worse things than that." If you are unsure what to say, just validate what your friend is feeling. For example, "I can see you're in so much pain right now."
- Be Direct. Ask your friend about suicidal thoughts and plans. Remember – talking about it will not push someone to do it. Ask about specific plans, as well as the access to carrying out those plans.
- Ask about treatment. Ask your friend whether he or she is seeing a therapist, whether at CAPS, in the Middletown area, or in their home community. Ask about medication, and whether he or she has been taking it.
- Access help. Encourage your friend to call CAPS or PSafe. Offer to make the call yourself. Offer to walk your friend to CAPS and to wait with him or her, or even to sit in on the initial appointment. If you think the situation may be an emergency, call CAPS or PSafe yourself, even if your friend does not want you do to so. Do your best not to leave the person alone while you access help.
Counseling and Psychological Services is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. We will directly assist with emergencies during these hours. We are also available after-hours to respond to emergency situations. Please call 860.685.2910 and leave your message with the answering service. The on-call clinician will call you back shortly.
- The following links provide additional suicide prevention resources:
Data referenced in this section have been reported by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.