How Common Is Suicide and Suicidal Feelings Among College Students?
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds
- In a recent national survey, 10.3% of college students reported that they seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months
Why Is Suicide So Common Among College Students?
College is a time of significant transition. Many students are living away from home for the first time and have less access to support from family and friends. Along with increased freedom and independence, students face greater stress from a variety of sources, such as: increased academic demands, adjusting to a new environment, and developing a new support system. College also provides an opportunity to experiment with alcohol and other drugs, which may compound problems with mood and increase the risk for suicide.
Many students come to college with a prior history of mental health difficulties or treatment. Environmental stressors in combination with a predisposition to experience mental health problems may increase risk for suicide. In a recent national survey 16% of college students reported being diagnosed with a depressive disorder, many within the last year. Over 90% of persons who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder, typically a depressive disorder or substance abuse disorder. Men are especially at risk for completed suicide. College age men are four to six times more likely to die by suicide than women. Women are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide using nonlethal means than men.
Facts About Suicide
- Most suicidal persons want to live but are unable to see alternatives to their problems.
- Most suicidal persons give warnings of their intentions, but others are either unaware or do not know how to respond.
- Talking about suicide does not cause someone to be suicidal.
- Just because a person talks about suicide (expresses his/her feelings), does not mean he/she is no longer at risk for suicide.
- Most suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention.
What Are the Risk Factors for Suicide?
- Depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder
- Stressful life events, in combination with other risk factors such as depression
- A prior suicide attempt
- Family history of mental disorder, substance abuse, or suicide
- A history of family violence or abuse
- Access to a firearm or other lethal means such as medications
What Are Some Warning Signs?
- Deteriorating academic performance
- Depression, dramatic mood changes
- Preoccupation with death
- Anxiety or agitation
- Uncontrolled anger or rage
- Engaging in risky activities
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Neglecting appearance and hygiene
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Giving away prized possessions
When Should Someone Seek Immediate Assistance?
When they are...
- Threatening or talking about wanting to hurt or kill him/herself
- Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms or other means
- Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
Is Suicide Preventable?
Yes! Specific kinds of psychotherapy have been found to be effective in treating suicide. Medications are also effective in treating the symptoms that contribute to suicide, such as depression and anxiety. Remember, you are not alone and help is available!
How Can I Help Someone Who May be Suicidal?
- Show interest and be supportive.
- Be direct; ask them if they are considering suicide or have a plan.
- Don't be judgmental, give advice, or try to talk them out of suicide.
- Don't swear to secrecy.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available.
- Don't leave the person alone.
- Take action, remove means, and assist them in getting the help they need.
- Inform University Housing staff if you live in a residence hall.
- Consult with a CAPS clinician as needed.
How Can I Help Someone Get Treatment?
In non-crisis situations...
- Tell the student to call CAPS during regular working hours for a telephone screening (see Scheduling an Appointment)
If the student is in crisis...
- Encourage the student to come to CAPS for a walk-in evaluation and offer to accompany him/her (see Scheduling an Appointment)
- Afterhours and on weekends have the student call the UGA Police at (706) 542-2200 to speak with the on-call clinician
- Offer to take the student to a local emergency room for an evaluation
- If the student needs immediate assistance call 911, the UGA Police at 706-542-2200 (if student lives on campus), or the Athens-Clarke County Police at 706-546-5900 (if student lives off campus)
What Should I Do if I am Feeling Suicidal
- Suicidal thinking is usually associated with problems that can be treated (e.g., depression or anxiety)
- Solutions to your problems do exist, even though you are currently unable to see them
- Suicidal crises are almost always temporary
- Do not keep your thoughts to yourself, help is available for you
What to do in non-crisis situations...
- Call CAPS during regular working hours for a telephone screening (see Scheduling an Appointment)
What to do if you are in crisis or feel that you cannot keep yourself safe...
- Come to CAPS for a walk-in evaluation (see Scheduling an Appointment)
- Afterhours and on weekends call the UGA Police at 706-542-2200 to speak with the on-call clinician
- Drive or have someone take you to a local emergency room for an evaluation
- If you need immediate assistance call 911, the UGA Police at 706-542-2200 (if you live on campus), or the Athens-Clarke County Police at 706-546-5900 (if you live off campus)
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
American Association of Suicidology
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
National Institute of Mental Health
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
or call 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
Suicide Prevention Action Network USA
American Association of Suicidology (2008). If You Are Considering Suicide.
American Association of Suicidology (2008). Understanding and Helping the Suicidal Individual.
American College Health Association (2007). National College Health Assessment, Fall 2007: Reference Group Executive Summary.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online].
National Institute of Mental Health (2006). Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (2005). College Students.