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Suicidal Behavior

Suicide is the act of deliberately taking one’s own life. It is the second leading cause of death among college students today. Most people who show suicidal behaviors don’t actually want to die. They just can’t see any other relief from painful thoughts or feelings. Almost all people who die by suicide are suffering from an emotional disorder, most commonly depression. Other emotional problems — such as anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, psychotic disorders or eating disorders — can increase the risk for suicide, too. Identifying and treating these mental health conditions is especially important because sufferers may be more likely to attempt suicide in the wake of a stressful event such as a death, relationship difficulties, or a failed exam.

Many students who die by suicide have given warnings of their intentions to family and friends. Most suicidal people are undecided about living or dying. Part of them wants to live. Another part feels trapped or hopeless. They sometimes gamble with death — talking about or attempting suicide in a way that leaves room for other people to save them. Some call this the “cry for help.” That’s why understanding the warning signs, and acting quickly to get help, is so crucial in suicide prevention. There is hope. People who are suicidal can be helped with the proper treatment.

Signs and Symptoms

More often that not, individuals who are contemplating suicide will give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. All suicide threats, gestures, and attempts must be taken seriously. Here are some warning signs that a person may be at risk for suicide:

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped or like there’s no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Expressing no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life
  • Prior suicide attempts

Getting Help

If you are having thoughts of suicide or any type of self-harm, contact your school’s health center or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) to speak with a trained professional and get connected to a mental health provider on or near your campus. It’s available 24 hours a day nationwide. You can also dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

People who are suicidal can get effective treatment, which may include counseling and/or medication. Treatment focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying emotional problems that a suicidal person may have.

The most effective way to prevent suicide is to know the warning signs and know how to respond when you experience them yourself or see them in a friend. Take any comments or thoughts about suicide very seriously. A suicidal person should not be left alone and should get professional help immediately.

Please be sure to select your school above so we can provide you with information about resources and help on or near your campus.