Suicide Prevention Information
Who is at risk for suicide? People who feel hopeless and helpless regarding changing their situations may be at risk. Most people experience sad or stressful life circumstances before becoming suicidal.
Warning signs that someone may be in danger:
- Previous suicide attempt: Up to half of the people who kill themselves have previously attempted suicide
- Talking about death or suicide: Direct or indirect statements like, "My family would be better off without me" or "I can't keep going like this."
- Planning for suicide: Watch for behaviors such as:
- Acquiring the means to commit suicide (buying a gun, pills, etc.)
- Giving away cherished possessions
- Writing letters saying good-bye
Other risk factors:
- Depression: Most depressed people aren’t suicidal but most suicidal people are depressed.
- Substance abuse: Escalating substance abuse can trigger feelings of guilt and shame.
- Being male: Men find it harder to ask for help, problems can build.
- Overwhelming anger: Wanting to punish others by dying
- Isolation: This can magnify problems and prevent getting others’ feedback.
- Impulsivity: Engaging in dangerous behavior
Is it true that people who threaten suicide won’t really go through with it?
No. The great majority of people who commit suicide do talk about their intention to kill themselves. Threats may be direct, as in "All I can think about is wanting death" or indirect, such as "At least I won’t have to put up with these problems much longer."
Do people who attempt suicide really want to die?
Almost everyone who thinks about suicide has mixed feelings about death. They want their problems to end and their pain to stop. Only when they feel no one can help them does death seem like the only solution. Suicide threats can be understood as a plea for help. Hopelessness can wash over people suddenly or take a while to build.
Among college students, 80 percent of suicides involve the use of alcohol or other drugs.
What if it is not clear that the person is suicidal?
Often people are ambivalent – they think suicide might be the answer but they are scared, uncertain and want to live. Sometimes they do not know how to ask for the help they need. They might sound suicidal one moment and deny it the next. If you are trying to help someone in this kind of situation, it can be difficult to know how best to assist them. Helpful things you can do include:
- Consider talking to someone else, whom you trust.
- Call the Counseling Center – (317) 788-5015 M-F, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – or other mental health professionals for consultation.
- Tell the person that you want to help, that you are aware of how much they hurt, but you think they need to talk with a professional counselor also.
- Persuading the person to go for professional assessment and assistance is very important.
What to do if you think a person might be thinking about suicide:
- Take every threat seriously. If you are not sure what to say, call a professional for consultation. Resources are listed in the "Help Is Available" section below.
- Listen carefully. We often worry about what to say to a suicidal person, when we first must listen. Help
people talk about how they feel and what’s happening in their lives. Be gently persistent, even if people are reluctant
to talk. Trust your instincts. Keep asking. Are they thinking clearly about their problems? Do they talk directly or indirectly about death?
- Convey your interest and concern. Ask questions to clarify their problems as this lets the person know you care.
Express your feelings and reactions – "your death would hurt so many." Suggest that it is possible to find solutions
to their problems. Convey confidence that, with help, solutions other than suicide can be found.
If you think the person's problems are too difficult to handle by yourself, call The University of Indianapolis Counseling Center, 788-5015, for consultation.
- Don't be afraid to ask if the person is thinking of suicide. You might say "It sounds like things feel really bad for you right now, so I wonder if you’ve been thinking about suicide?" Asking this will NOT put the idea in a person’s mind, and they may feel relieved you’ve asked this.
- Don't argue or say suicide is wrong. This makes the person feel like you don’t understand. They may not continue to confide in you. Avoid empty reassurances that "everything will work out." Telling them their problems aren’t so bad or that they have "everything to live for" will only increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness.
- Do involve other people. Encourage the person to tell other concerned or helpful people how he/she is feeling. Let the person know that you may have to tell someone else, too. Never agree to keep their suicidal thinking a secret.
- Ask about family. Ask if their family knows how bad they are feeling. Students can be reluctant to burden their family, yet family support can be crucial. Even in troubled families, students are frequently surprised by the level of family understanding and support they receive. Encourage them to call family members.
If the person is in immediate danger:
- Do not leave them alone.
- Get others involved such as an RA or their family.
- Get immediate help at one of the resources below. Don’t be afraid to take the person to the emergency room or call 911.
Call 911 immediately (24 hours a day ), if the person:
- Has taken an overdose and refuses to go to the emergency room
- Has a gun they won't give up
- Is intoxicated and refuses help
- Insists on being alone or disappears
Help is available at:
University of Indianapolis Student Counseling Center
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. weekdays
Schwitzer Center, Suite 210
University of Indianapolis Campus Police
Immediate Help: Call 911 (24 hours a day)
Help for non-students:
If you are concerned about someone who is not a UIndy Student, you may want to consider a referral to Adult and Child Mental Health Center (317)882-5122. The Counseling Center can provide a more extensive list of other referral sources in the community as well.
Web sites for more information about suicide:
American Association of Suicidology
American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
National Organization of People of Color Against Suicide
Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network
If someone you know commits suicide:
- Be aware that conflicted feelings (e.g. sorrow and anger) and upsetting thoughts are often a natural reaction to loss by suicide.
- Talk about your feelings with someone you trust to be supportive.
- Remind yourself that no matter what happened, you cannot be responsible for someone else’s actions.
- There is nothing wrong with you if you feel angry or want to go on enjoying your own life.
- Consider making an appointment with the Counseling Center or another mental health professional to discuss your feelings.
- People find solace in different ways through nature, art, spirituality.
- Certain things can make the grieving process much more complex and difficult when someone dies by suicide:
- A romantic relationship with the victim
- A fight or disagreement before their death
- Prior knowledge of the suicide plan
- Guilt about things said or done to the deceased prior to their death
- Mentioned in a suicidal note
- Identification with the victim’s problems
- Discovery of the body
Friends or family who have had these experiences should seek professional consultation.
College students and depression
Because of improvements in early diagnosis, good therapy, and improved medicines, more students with depression can succeed in college. However, severe bouts of depression can, as mentioned earlier, be a risk factor for suicide.
It is important to be familiar with indications or symptoms of depression.
- Loss of interest in work, people, or activities previously enjoyed
- Withdrawal from people
- Changes in sleep and/or appetite
- Sad or tearful mood
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feeling hopeless or helpless
- Increased irritability
Suggesting professional consultation is appropriate if someone shows many of these symptoms over a several day period.
Suicide can be viewed as an act of violence against the self.
Society attempts to stop other acts of violence. Help reduce this one.