Suicide Prevention: We All Play a Part
If you are experiencing any thoughts of self-harm or suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, there is immediate help for you.
Peers can play an important part in helping friends in distress. According to the most recent National College Health Assessment data, about 13% of college students report that they considered suicide at one point this past year and Active Minds reports that ⅔ of students tell a friend they are feeling suicidal before they tell anyone else. As a college student, you are part of a network of supporters who can help a friend or other students who may need help.
Knowing the risk factors and warning signs that a friend is in significant distress is one way to increase your helping skillset. Knowing how to help and available supportive resources is equally important. This means there is an entire network of supporters who can help to identify and provide assistance to a friend or peer who may need help.
Suicide is a complex issue that can have many causes. There are several things that can increase a person’s risk for suicide. According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, these include:
- Existing mental health concerns or diagnosis such as depression, anxiety, bipolar or schizophrenia
- History of a substance use disorder
- History of trauma, abuse, bullying or harassment
- Impulsive personality
- Major physical illness or impairment
- Experience of major loss (relationship, job, home)
- Lack of social support
- Stigma and strong beliefs against help-seeking
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
There are several warning signs that may indicate a friend or peer is in distress. These include:
- Withdrawing from friends, family or social activities
- Researching ways to harm oneself
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or having no reasons to live
- Talking about feeling like they are a burden to others
- New or increasing use of drugs or alcohol
- Significant changes in sleep habits
- Significant changes in self-care habits and personal hygiene
- Extreme moodiness, irritability, and/or agitation
- Giving away possessions
- Talking about wanting to die
If you feel a friend needs help, know your options:
- You can talk to your friend. Ask them how they are doing and how you can help.
- You can refer them to local and community resources such as your campus or community counseling center, a local crisis hotline or the National Helpline (number above). You can even offer to sit with your friend or peer when they call or make an appointment.
- You can consult with a campus mental health provider or medical provider to talk about your concerns and observations and ask for guidance on how to best help and support your friend.
- You can call your campus or local police if your friend is in immediate danger of harming themselves or threatening to kill themselves.
In addition to knowing the risk factors and warning signs and pathways for helping, you can play an additional part in preventing suicide and supporting others.
- Start by reaching out to friends and other peers to check in and let them know you care about them. An email, text, or call can do wonders.
- Connect with peers who seem withdrawn or show other signs of distress.
- Do your part to reduce stigma around emotional well-being and mental health. Challenge misconceptions and normalize help seeking behaviors.
- If a friend or peer is afraid to see someone in counseling, suggest they see a medical provider if that feels more comfortable for them. Offer to walk with them to an appointment or wait for them after.
- Finally, consider joining a peer education group or volunteer at a local organization that supports mental health and prevents suicide. See these resources for more information: