Helping a Friend in Crisis
In 1998, suicide was the eighth leading cause of death for all Americans, but the second leading killer in the college population. Clinical depression affects more than 19 million adults every year. Although women suffer from clinical depression and attempt suicide more than men, men are more likely to complete the act. Any talk of suicide by a friend or loved one should be taken seriously and help should be sought immediately.
There are ways to help a friend or loved one who is thinking of taking their life. There are several UCR resources that can help: Counseling and Psychological Services, Residence Hall staff, professors, TAs, the Student Affairs Case Manager and the Dean of Students office.
Know the Symptoms
Depression and thoughts of suicide can impact a person's life in many different ways. Not everyone experiences depression and suicidal tendencies in the same way.
Some people may have behavioral changes, while others experience physical changes. If depression is present, substance abuse, anxiety, impulsivity, rage, and hopelessness may increase the risk of suicide.
Common Warning Signs Include:
- Sadness or anxiety
- Feelings of guilt, helplessness or hopelessness
- Trouble eating or sleeping
- Withdrawing from friends and/or social activities
- Loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Specific Warning Signs Include:
- Talking openly about committing suicide
- Talking indirectly about "wanting out" or "ending it all"
- Taking unnecessary or life-threatening risks
- Giving away personal possessions
Suicide Can Also Be Triggered By:
- Stressful events, such as a failed exam or failure to get a job
- Crises in significant social or family relationships
- Interpersonal losses
- Changes in body chemistry
- High levels of anger or anxiety
Responding to Someone Who is Suicidal
Listen and offer emotional support, understanding and patience.
Be honest. Express your concerns. For example, "You seemed really down lately. Is something bothering you?"
Ask directly about thoughts of suicide. For example, "Have you thought about killing yourself or ending your life?" If suicidal thoughts, intentions or plans are expressed, it's important to contact Counseling and Psychological Services, the Dean of Students Office, or if in the Residence Halls, your RA, RD or someone else in charge.
Convey the message that depression is real, common and treatable. Suicidal feelings are real, preventable, and treatable. Offer to accompany your friend to see a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services or other person who can help.
If you discover that your friend has a specific plan or a timetable for harming her/himself, take it seriously. Call an appropriate campus resource right away. Don't leave the person alone even if they say something like, "I'm okay now." Get someone to stay with your friend, or accompany your friend to Counseling and Psychological Services or to the emergency room of a local hospital. If your friend is in immediate danger of hurting her/himself, call campus police (9-1-1).