Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Suicide Prevention

Behavioral warnings of suicidal ideation:

• A tendency toward isolation and social withdrawal
• Increasing substance abuse
• Expression of negative attitudes toward self
• Expression of hopelessness or helplessness
• Loss of interest in usual activities
• Giving away valued possessions
• Expression of a lack of future orientation: "It won't matter soon anyway."
• For someone who has been very depressed, when that depression begins to lift, the individual may be at INCREASED risk of suicide, as the individual will have the psychological energy to follow-through on suicidal ideation.

People with untreated severe mental illness are at risk of suicide. Possibly symptoms of mental illness may include:

• Extreme personality changes
• Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
• Significant loss or gain in appetite
• Difficulty falling asleep or wanting to sleep all day
• Fatigue or loss of energy
• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
• Withdrawal from family and friends
• Neglect of personal appearance or hygiene
• Sadness, irritability, or indifference
• Having trouble concentrating
• Extreme anxiety or panic
• Drug or alcohol use or abuse
• Aggressive, destructive, or defiant behavior
• Poor school performance
• Hallucinations or unusual beliefs

College students who commit suicide often do not have effective coping mechanisms. Because of this, students are at the highest risk of suicide 48 hours after a triggering event. Triggering events are stressful events that the student cannot effectively cope with. Examples of triggering events are, but are not limited to: death of a friend or family member, failing school, family crisis, a break-up with a significant other, and fights with friends.

If you suspect someone may commit suicide, ask them. If they have, ask if they have a plan. The more specific the plan, the more likely they are to follow through. If they have a plan, find out if they have the means to execute the plan. If the plan is specific and the means are readily available and they have set the time: you MUST take the person to a mental health professional or the emergency room. If you are on the phone with them, call 911.

If the individual has a plan but you assess the threat to not be immediate, you must help the person seek help. Individuals overwhelmed with suicidal ideation are not capable of seeking help for themselves. Drive them to a mental health facility or walk them to a walk-in counselor. Reassure them that while the pain they are feeling is overwhelming, it can get better.

Adapted from:
National Alliance on Mental Illness

The Trevor Project

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