Suicide is currently the 2nd leading cause of death in college-aged students. According to the 2016 National College Health Assessment, it was reported that 9.5% of students at EWU have had thoughts of committing suicide and 1.1% of EWU students have made suicide attempts.
Suicide is preventable. Most people who report having suicidal thoughts/ideations, or who have created a plan to commit suicide, have not actually decided whether or not to end their lives. It is actually common for people who are feeling suicidal to show warning signs to family and friends that they are considering ending their lives. You can help prevent suicide by learning the signs & symptoms and how to talk to your student if you believe they are feeling depressed or suicidal.
Understand the Risk Factors
- Previous suicide attempts
- Mental illness, depression, or other mood disorders
- Serious or chronic medical illness or disability
- History of trauma or abuse
- Prolonged stress
- Recent tragedy or loss
- Stress from prejudice or discrimination (LGBT+ youth are at high risk)
Recognize the Signs & Symptoms
- New or worsened anger or hostility
- Engaging in reckless or risky behavior without considering the potential consequences
- Increase in alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from family, friends, and society
- Dramatic mood changes
- Inability to sleep or sleeping more often than usual
- Giving verbal hints about an intent to commit suicide
- Directly talking about death or suicide
Watch for Verbal Hints
Your student may give you verbal hints that can cause concern. These are typically “cries for help” and can be direct or indirect, but should never be ignored. Here are some examples:
- “I can’t go on anymore.”
- “I wish I was never born.”
- No one will miss me when I’m gone.”
- “What’s the point?”
- “You won’t see me anymore.”
- “Life sucks! Nobody cares if I live or die.”
- “I’m going to put an end to it all.”
- “You won’t have to worry about me anymore.”
- “I won’t need this anymore.”
- “It’s never going to get better.”
How to talk with your student
Talk with your student and express concern. You can indicate that you have noticed a change in their mood or behavior, or that you are worried about any verbal hints they have given you. Show concern about these things and be willing to have an open conversation about what it means.
Ask if they are considering suicide. It is a common myth that asking someone who is suicidal if they are going to commit suicide will actually make them more likely to go through with their plan. In actuality, most people who are considering suicide want to talk about it. Simply ask, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?" By addressing the situation and openly discussing suicide, you can break down that barrier and work towards getting your student the help they need.
Engage in active listening. People experiencing suicidal thoughts/ideations need a safe space to talk about their thoughts where they will not be judged. Show interest in your student’s needs and offer support during the conversation when you can. Most importantly, always take your student seriously if they say they are feeling suicidal.
Help your student find assistance. People who are suicidal can get effective, positive treatment from mental health care professionals. EWU offers free counseling services to students at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or you can use a mental health provider with whom you feel comfortable.
If your student is suicidal, do not leave them alone! Make sure to remove any potentially lethal objects from the immediate vicinity and stay with them until you can get help. You can contact the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) or 1-800-SUICIDE for help or you can call 911 or take your student to an emergency room for immediate assistance.