College Students And Suicide Prevention

Trigger Warning: This Article Will Discuss Suicide

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about suicide prevention, remember the lives lost to suicide, and acknowledge those who have been impacted by suicide and those who have struggled with suicidal ideation. 

Exacerbated by the pandemic, thoughts of suicide among U.S. college students are on the rise. According to the Mayo Clinic’s 2021–22 survey, 44 percent of college students reported symptoms of depression, and 15 percent reported seriously considering suicide.  

In 2020, the CDC reported that suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people ages 15-24.

College can be a difficult transition and a time of high stress for many students. Students may experience challenges such as increased academic demands, financial burdens, or difficulty making friends and adjusting to a new environment. These challenges may cause or worsen feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions in students. 

Suicide Risk Factors

 Common risk factors for suicide include:

  • Extreme mood swings and/or personality changes
  • Increased fixation on death, suicide, and/or violence
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Communicating feelings of hopelessness
  • Expressing a desire or plan to die by suicide
  • Giving away belongings of special meaning or significance
  • Obtaining a weapon or other means of lethal self-harm
  • Increased alcohol and/or substance use
  • Engaging in risky and/or dangerous behavior
  • Loss of interest in people, things, places, and activities
  • Feeling suddenly happier or at peace (may be due to coming to terms with the decision to end their life)

What Are Some Warning Signs?

Common warning signs that someone is thinking about suicide include:

  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Giving away possessions
  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Ignoring class work or skipping classes
  • Engaging in risky or self-destructive acts, such as using drugs or driving recklessly
  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seeing them again
  • Showing anger or rage or expressing a desire to seek revenge
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talking about suicide
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Talking about feeling trapped, hopeless, or having no purpose
  • Withdrawing from friends and wanting to be left alone

 How To Help Someone Who May Be Suicidal

Some ways to help someone who may be suicidal are: 

  • Be direct; ask them if they are considering suicide or have a plan.
  • Don’t try to fix it; Reassure them that you’re there for them whenever they need you.
  • Center their feelings; Don’t undermine their experience, instead, try to listen and validate the way they’re feeling. 
  • Offer support; check in and offer a hand where you’re able can make a big difference
  • Help connect them to a mental health professional.
  • Continue to stay in touch; show them that your support isn’t only for emergencies.

Resources for Suicide Prevention:

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, know that you are not alone and that help is available.

  • Call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat. Services are free and confidential.
  • American Association of Suicidology –  www.suicidology.org
    The goal of (AAS) is to understand and prevent suicide.
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention –  www.afsp.org
    The nation’s leading organization bringing together people across communities and backgrounds to understand and prevent suicide, and to help heal the pain it causes.
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center –  www.sprc.org
    The nation’s only federally supported resource center devoted to advancing the  National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
  • The Jed Foundation –  http://www.jedfoundation.org/
    As the nation’s leading organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college students, The Jed Foundation is protecting the mental health of students across the country. 
  • ULifeline –  http://www.ulifeline.org/
    On online resource for college mental health.  Also includes a help line for those with more serious mental health issues such as suicidal thoughts and how to help a friend.

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