If you are thinking about suicide or hurting yourself, or if someone you know seems to be thinking about suicide, please talk to a responsible adult or
call (800) 273-TALK (8255). This telephone hotline is available 24/7.
The people who answer the phone will help you.
Problems that lead to suicide are usually temporary ones. Problems in romantic relationships, academics, and finances are stressful, especially for college students. This is one reason why college students are at high risk. Unfortunately, suicide is a permanent solution to these temporary issues.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
College students have their own culture and language. You may know your college friends better than their own parents do. And you may be able to tell that something is wrong with one of your classmates when the professors and faculty advisors can't. You can use your insights to help your friends and classmates find help when they are having problems.
While there is no foolproof method of determining that someone is thinking of hurting him- or herself, the following signs might indicate that a young person is considering suicide:
- A suddenly worsening school performance. Good students who suddenly start ignoring assignments and cutting classes may have problems-including depression or drug and alcohol abuse-that can affect their health and happiness and put them at risk of suicide.
- A fixation with death or violence. Young adults with problems may develop an unusual interest in death or violence, expressed through poetry, essays, doodling, or artwork; an obsession with violent movies, video games, and music; or a fascination with weapons. Older adults often cannot tell a "normal" interest in violent video games or music from an obsession, whereas peers know what is more typical for this age group.
- Unhealthy peer relationships. Students who don't have friends, or suddenly reject their friends, may be at risk. A friend who suddenly rejects you, claiming, "You just don't understand me anymore," may be having emotional problems.
- Violent mood swings or a sudden change in personality. Peers who become sullen, silent, and withdrawn, or angry and acting out, may have problems that can lead to suicide.
- Indications that the student is in an abusive relationship. Some young people may be physically or emotionally abused by a member of their family or their girlfriend or boyfriend. Signs that a person may be in an abusive relationship include unexplained bruises or other injuries that he or she refuses to discuss.
- Signs of an eating disorder. An eating disorder is an obvious sign that someone needs help. A dramatic change in weight that is not the result of a medically supervised diet may also indicate that something is wrong.
- Difficulty in adjusting to gender identity. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered young people have higher suicide attempt rates than their heterosexual peers. These youth may be faced with social pressures that make life very difficult.
- Depression. Depression is an emotional problem that increases a person's risk of suicide. The following signs indicate that someone may be depressed:
- A sudden worsening in school performance
- Withdrawal from friends and extracurricular activities
- Expressions of sadness and hopelessness, or anger and rage
- A sudden, unexplained decline in enthusiasm and energy
- Overreaction to criticism
- Lowered self-esteem, or feelings of guilt
- Indecision, lack of concentration, and forgetfulness
- Restlessness and agitation
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Unprovoked episodes of crying
- Sudden neglect of appearance and hygiene
- Seeming to feel tired all the time, for no apparent reason
- An increase in the use of alcohol or other drugs
Some warning signs of suicide demand immediate action:
- Announcing that the person has made a plan to kill him- or herself
- Talking or writing about suicide or death
- Saying things like:
- I wish I were dead.
- I'm going to end it all.
- You will be better off without me.
- What's the point of living?
- Soon you won't have to worry about me.
- Who cares if I'm dead, anyway?
- Staying by themselves rather than hanging out with friends
- Expressing feelings that life is meaningless
- Giving away prized possessions
- Neglecting their appearance and hygiene
- Obtaining a weapon or other things that they could use to hurt themselves (such as prescription medications)
Again, there is no foolproof way of knowing for sure that a teen is thinking of hurting him- or herself. But even if the person isn't thinking of suicide, these warning signs can mean that he or she has other serious problems. By taking action, you can help that person become happier and healthier.
Helping Your Peers
If you think that any of your friends or classmates may be thinking of killing themselves, there are two important things you can do: Talk to them, and express your concern to a responsible adult.
Having someone to talk to can make a big difference. College students will often share secrets and feelings with their peers that they will not share with older adults. However, you may need to be persistent before they are willing to talk. Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. Talking about suicide or suicidal thoughts will not push someone to kill themselves. It is also not true that people who talk about killing themselves will not actually try it. Take any expressed intention of suicide very seriously.
You should be especially concerned if people tell you that they have made a detailed suicide plan or obtained a means of hurting themselves. If they announce that they are thinking of taking an overdose of prescription medication or jumping from a particular bridge, stay with them until they are willing to go with you and talk to a responsible adult-or until a responsible adult can be found who will come to you.
Don't pretend you have all the answers. The most important thing you can do may be to help them find help. Never promise to keep someone's intention to kill him- or herself a secret.
If you have talked with a friend or classmate and think that person is in danger, yet the person refuses to get help, you need to talk to a responsible adult who can intervene. You should also find a responsible adult if your friend or classmate refuses to discuss the issue with you, or if you think that you don't know the person well enough to initiate a personal conversation. Tell them that help is available and let them know how to seek help.
Find someone who is concerned with and understands young people and can help. This might be a member of your friend's family, or it could be a residence assistant, a professor, an administrator, a member of the clergy, or contact the Cal Poly Pomona Counseling Services or a Wellness Center health educator, or the SHS Urgent Care.
Don't be afraid of being wrong. It is difficult for even experts to understand who is at serious risk of suicide and who is not. Many of the warning signs for suicide could also indicate problems with drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, depression, or another mental illness. Young people with these problems need help-and you can help.
"How to Be Helpful to Someone Who is Threatening Suicide" (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
Taking Care of Yourself
If you are thinking of hurting yourself, tell someone who can help. If you cannot talk to your parents, find someone else: a relative, a friend, or someone at Cal Poly Pomona Counseling Services, SHS Wellness Center health educator, or the SHS Urgent Care. Or, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
Counseling Services: (909) 869-3220
Student Health Services Urgent Care: (909) 869-2740
Wellness Center: (909) 869-5272
Women's Resource Center: (909) 869-3112
Ulifeline.org is a web-based resource created by the Jed Foundation to provide students with a non-threatening and supportive link to their college's mental health center as well as important mental health information. Students are able to download information about various mental illnesses, ask questions, make appointments, and seek help anonymously via the Internet.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides immediate assistance to individuals in suicidal crisis by connecting them to the nearest available suicide prevention and mental health service provider through a toll-free telephone number (24 hours/day, 7 days/week): 800-273-TALK (8255)
Veteran's Crisis Line Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available as well.
The Trevor Project. Around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.
Go Ask Alice! is a web-based health question-and-answer service produced by Alice!, Columbia University's Health Education Program. Go Ask Alice! provides information to help young people make better decisions concerning their health and well-being. Go Ask Alice! answers questions about relationships, sexuality, emotional health, alcohol and other drugs, and other topics. The addresses of e-mails sent to Go Ask Alice! are electronically scrambled to preserve the senders' confidentiality. Questions are answered by a team of Columbia University health educators and information and research specialists from other health-related organizations.