Teen Suicide Prevention
College Suicide — Know the Warning Signs
Any mention or thought of suicide should be taken seriously, whether it's from you, your college roommate, or a friend.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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College is often referred to as the best years of your life, but many college students suffer from serious depression, and even contemplate suicide. Consider these statistics:
- As many as 10 percent of students meeting criteria for clinical depression have seriously contemplated suicide.
- Suicide is the second most common cause of death among college students. Suicide is most commonly caused by untreated depression.
- Every 2 hours and 12 minutes, someone between the ages of 15 and 24 dies of suicide.
- Of every 100,000 college students, an average of 7.5 commit suicide each year.
Related: When a Loved One Is a Suicide Risk
College Suicide: The Warning Signs
Some people may actually be screaming for help, even if they aren’t vocalizing what they're thinking about. Typical signs of depression include:
- Difficulty handling schoolwork
- Disinterest in activities that used to be enjoyed
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Lack of energy or feeling drained
- Emotional outbursts, from crying to being easily irritated
Self-destructive behavior, serious substance abuse, changes in relationships — particularly sexual promiscuity — are all warning signs of serious depression and potential suicidal thoughts that might not typically be recognized.
This kind of behavior "may be rationalized as a normal thing, but in reality it's a sign of somebody who's caught up in hopelessness, despair, and issues of self-esteem," says Kaveh Zamanian, PhD, a clinical psychologist and owner of East End Psychological Associates in Louisville, Ky. "Certainly the most obvious sign is any declaration of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. Sometimes people say it to minimize it or in jest. My tendency is to take those seriously."
Any mention at all of suicide warrants immediate attention. Don't waste time wondering whether your friend is for real or contemplating if he would go through with it. If he even mentions it, regardless of whether he would follow through, he’s asking for help.
Related: 10 Ways to Reduce Stress in College
College Suicide: How to Get Help
Whether you're the individual experiencing these symptoms or you're witnessing a close friend, it's essential to get helpnow.
Speaking with a mental health professional or counselor is a great first step, says Zamanian. They're trained to help students in this situation. You can also go to your resident adviser or floor supervisor in your dorm.
"Mental health issues have been on the rise," says Zamanian. So college counseling centers are becoming better equipped to deal with these life-threatening situations. They can offer suicide screenings and follow up with appropriate interventions.
"If you're in doubt, I think you should get a consultation from someone," says Zamanian. You can also run it by friends — if you're suspicious, it's likely they are, too. Talk to them about your concerns and get their perspective. They can give you the confidence you need to approach your friend or get help. When it comes to contacting family members, says Zamanian, things get a bit trickier. If you don't know the family situation, involving relatives might not be much help.
A mere thought or passing statement about suicide is a cry for help. Be aware, listen, and get the help that’s needed.
Video: Whispers of Harm-The Signs of Suicide [cc]
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