Getting help for someone struggling with suicidal thoughts
Suicide is a national problem, but suicide is often preventable. Please review the information below about the warning signs of suicide, how these feelings might express themselves in an academic setting, how people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts feel, and how you can help.
- According to national statistics: Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students in the U.S. 24,000 suicide attempts on college campus occur per year nationwide. Per year, 1,100 suicides occur nationwide. Of college students who die by suicide 80 percent are not receiving counseling services.
- Suicide can be prevented.
How can you help?
Be aware of warning signs
Although thoughts about death or suicide are not uncommon, it is important to take them seriously. It is not possible to predict suicide with absolute precision, but there are signs that a person may be considering suicide.
If you see or hear these warning signs, seek professional help now:
- Expressing thoughts of harming oneself, writing about death or suicide, threatening to kill oneself
- No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
- Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Feeling trapped--like there's no way out
- Withdrawing from friends, family and society
- Dramatic mood or behavioral changes
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
- Increased alcohol or drug use, especially after relapse
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking; seeking access to firearms; stockpiling pills
What signs might you see?
These are some of the things you might notice in a student or classmate that could indicate suicide might be a problem:
- Sudden drop in grades or performance
- Not seeming to care anymore about school
- Disappearing from class, clubs or regular activities
- Neglect of appearance or hygiene
- Increase in drinking or drug use
- Difficulty sleeping or lack of sleep
- Getting fired from a job or expelled from school
- Sudden inexplicable improvement in mood following a depressive episode
Many people at some time in their lives think about suicide. Most decide to live because they eventually come to realize that the crisis is temporary and death is permanent. On the other hand, people having a crisis sometimes perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control.
These are some of the feelings and thoughts they experience:
- Can't stop the pain, or can't see a future without pain
- Can't think clearly or make decisions
- Can't see any way out
- Can't sleep, eat or work
- Can't seem to get control
- Can't get out of depression or make the sadness go away
- Can't see themselves as worthwhile
And these are some of the things a person who may be feeling suicidal might say or think:
- "Soon you won't have to worry about me"
- "I won't be around much longer"
- "I just want to die."
- "Who cares if I'm dead anyway?"
- "My family would be better off without me"
What to do?
Here are some ways to be helpful to someone who is threatening suicide:
- Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide. You won't be putting ideas into their head; this is a myth.
- Be willing to listen. Allow the expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings. Being heard is very powerful.
- Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support. This helps prevent isolation and withdrawal.
- Don't dare them to do it.
- Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
- Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support from others.
- Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
- Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills, when it is safe to do so. Call the police if you believe a suicide is imminent.
Ways to find immediate help
To speak with a counselor here on campus, call NEIU's Counseling Services at (773) 442-4650 to make an appointment or visit us in room B 119.
Our office hours are Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
For immediate assistance:
- Call NEIU's Counseling Services at (773) 442-4650 and ask to speak to a counselor. After hours, press “2” for emergency intervention and consultation to the campus community.
- Call Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center Crisis Line (773) 296-5380.
- Call 911.
- Call or visit your local hospital emergency room. The closest hospital to NEIU Main Campus is Swedish Covenant Hospital, at the corner of Foster and California avenues. Their ER is located at 2739 W. Foster Ave (773) 878-8200.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), en Español 1-888-628-9454.