Suicide. It's tough to talk about, but learning the facts and signs can save a life. The Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH) is spreading the word, as part of a grant-funded project training individuals and groups to recognize those at risk, and intervene if needed. CCPH and the university are committed to continuing prevention efforts and have provided funding to continue the gatekeeper trainings and outreach.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free, confidential suicide prevention and intervention services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call toll-free, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Learn more at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults and second leading cause among college students in the United States. Each year approximately 5,000 individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 take their own life. Most of those who die could have been helped. Someone considering suicide frequently confides in a friend or relative, who may be able to help the person to seek appropriate and lifesaving treatment.
Students and Suicide
College students can face serious mental and behavioral health issues, including depression and binge drinking. The challenge for mental health professionals is how to identify and help them; nationwide, fewer than 20% of students who die by suicide are past or current clients of their school's counseling center.
However, students who do connect with services often benefit significantly. UMass Amherst surveys have shown that over 80% of those who sought mental health care said services helped them stay in school and improve academic performance.
Why Do People Consider Suicide
Because each individual is unique, there is no single reason why someone has suicidal thoughts or may attempt to kill themselves. Factors that may contribute to having suicidal thoughts are:
- A major life transition that is very upsetting or disappointing
- A loss of an important relationship or the death of a loved one
- Depression, anxiety or other serious emotional troubles
- Feelings of hopelessness or despair
- Low self-esteem or shame
- Failure to live up to one's own or others' expectations
- Extreme loneliness
- News of a major medical illness
- Severe physical or emotional pain
- Alcohol or drug problems
There are many verbal and nonverbal warning signs that someone may be suicidal and crying out for help. These warning signs include:
- Extended depression, sadness or uncontrolled crying
- Giving away personal or prized possessions
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Lack of interest in personal appearance
- Withdrawal from friends
- Lack of energy or ambition
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Restlessness or hyperactivity
- Increased risky behaviors
- Hopelessness and helplessness
- Remarks or social media posts like: "It'll be over soon,"; "I can’t take it anymore."; "I have no reason to go on."; "My life will never get better." or "People will be better off without me."
- Disclosure of previous suicide attempts
- A recent loss or trauma from which a person is not recovering
Suicide Myths and Facts
Myth: People who talk about suicide won't really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don't ignore suicide statements.
Myth: If a person's going to attempt suicide, nothing will stop them.
Fact: Most who attempt suicide remain uncertain of the decision until the final moment. Most suicidal people don't wish for death – they wish for the pain to stop.
Myth: People who commit suicide are unwilling to seek help.
Fact: Studies show that more than half of suicide victims sought professional help within six months of their death.
Myth: Anyone who attempts suicide must be psychotic or insane.
Fact: Most people who commit suicide aren't psychotic, although many are depressed.
Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: Talking about suicide doesn't give someone suicidal thoughts – the opposite is true. Bringing up the subject and talking about it is one of the most helpful things you can do. It helps a suicidal person feel understood and shows you understand the suffering the person's experiencing.
Ways to Help
- Start. Find a quiet, comfortable place to talk. Don't promise to keep your discussions secret.
- Connect. Pay attention and avoid distractions.
- Ask: Use phrases that show you want to help. "It seems like you're having a hard time. I'd like to hear about it." "I wanted to check in, because you haven't seemed yourself lately."
- Listen. Take in what's being what the person says to make sure you understand fully. Ask questions, such as "When did you begin feeling like this?" "How can I best support you right now? Don't say "I know how you feel," because you aren't that person or experiencing their feelings.
- Offer hope. Let the person know you care and that help is available. Before ending the conversation, have a next step you both agree on, like planning another time to talk or connecting with professional help.
- Encourage the person to seek help: You may want to offer to accompany them to talk to the R.D., a mental health clinician, or to UHS Walk-in Care.
- Help someone to stay safe: If they are in danger, stay with them and call for help such as local police (413) 545-2121 or 911, or CCPH at (413) 545-2337 or after hours at (413) 577-5000.
- Talk with a clinician or someone else You trust: This way you can share the responsibility with others, attend to your own need for support, and check out how you can continue to be of help.
Resources for Help
In an emergency, call one of the following numbers:
- Campus Police: (413) 545-2121
- Faculty and Staff Assistance Program: (413) 545-0350
- Emergency: 911
- Center for Counseling And Psychological Health: (413) 545-2337
- UHS Walk-in Care: (413) 577-5000
- Center for Women and Community 24-hour sexual assault and violence hotline: (413) 545-0800 – www.umass.edu/ewc
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – Chat online at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
- Crisis Text Line: Text “start” to 741-741 – www.crisistextline.org/get-help-now
If you have questions about yourself or a friend, you can talk with a mental health professional at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health, located at Middlesex House, 111 County Circle.
The CCPH offers free group trainings for the UMass Amherst campus community. Learn to recognize the warning signs of suicide and what to do if you see them – you could save a life.
For information or to schedule a session, call (413) 545-2337.
About the training
The 'gatekeeper' model, developed at Syracuse University, focuses on training those who most directly interact with students. Experiential exercises replicate the emotional experiences of someone in crisis, giving participants the skills and information they need to assist at-risk students.
- Warning signs;
- Response modes;
- Campus resources; and
- Current suicide statistics and research.
Trained gatekeepers don't provide mental health care; rather, they use the techniques and resources learned to connect students with needed services.
Why training is important
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.
- 5,000 young adults – 1,100 college students die by suicide every year.
- Research indicates 10% of college students have suicidal thoughts.
- Even one death is one too many.