Understanding Suicide Prevention

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Disclaimer: The following is intended as an information resource only; we are not a medical organization and we cannot give medical advice. If you are experiencing a life threatening situation, seek medical help or dial 911.

Death by suicide is a serious public health issue that has increased by 24% over the last 15 years in the U.S., with more than 42,000 people dying from suicide each year. Statistics show that suicide rates have risen across all age groups and genders during this period, though even with a 200% increase in the suicide rate of females age 10-14, the suicide rate of men remains almost four times higher than that of women. Public health experts suggest that the key to lowering the suicide rate is prevention, including educating the public about recognizing suicidal behavior and improving support resources for those who are at risk.

Experts agree that issues leading a person to attempt suicide are typically multi-faceted. Since 1999, reports indicate that the economic recession and an increase in substance abuse may have contributed to higher suicide rates in the U.S. Studies also show that a vast majority of people who have died by suicide had psychiatric conditions including depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, though there may be a combination of factors that lead a person to attempt suicide.

Stigmas surrounding suicide are widely prevalent in society today. Many people experiencing uncontrollable mental health conditions or suicidal behavior have been made to feel fearful of the reactions of peers, co-workers, family, and society. In actuality, continuing to treat suicide as a taboo subject only perpetuates feelings of isolation and shame, and detracts from crucial suicide prevention resources for those at risk. Experts agree that concerted efforts to eliminate the stigmatization of suicide are necessary in order to eventually lower the suicide rate in the U.S.

Studies suggest that engaging at-risk individuals through public awareness can be an effective method of suicide prevention and support. While generic public service announcements may seem far-removed, public sharing of the stories of those who have considered or attempted suicide themselves seems to be an effective method of suicide prevention. This “direct-contact” approach not only speaks to individuals in crisis in a relatable way, but also helps break down the larger stigma surrounding suicide in the public forum.

Demystifying Suicide

There are many misconceptions that contribute to an unrealistic picture of suicide in society. People who have not been affected by suicide may subscribe to untrue myths about this serious issue that continue to impact others. Those experiencing severe symptoms of suicidal behavior are typically facing such deep despair that they simply see no other option to end their suffering. For most, their goal is not to die but to eliminate the pain of their current circumstances, and so they are deeply conflicted about attempting suicide. Learning the facts and demystifying suicide can help to save a life.

MYTHFACT
People who talk about suicide
don't really follow through with it.
Almost all people who die from suicide had talked about it before their death. Even if it seems like they are joking, always take this kind of a statement seriously. Remember: it is better to be overly cautious than to disregard the signs.
A person only attempts suicide to get attention. Anyone with a history of suicide attempts automatically has a higher lifetime risk of dying by suicide. If someone is risking their life to get attention, attention should most definitely be paid. It is better to offer help than assume you know the reasons for their behavior.
Talking about suicide may influence someone to do it.On the contrary, remaining silent and ignoring the topic does nothing to help those who have contemplated suicide. Willingness to discuss the issue openly and objectively, however, can make a positive difference.
If a person was previously suicidal and
appears to feel better, they are no longer at risk.
It is not uncommon for individuals who have been depressed and/or suicidal to show signs of "feeling better" because they have settled on a plan to end their life. Feeling that they have found the right "solution" to relieve their struggling, a person may appear to no longer be suicidal when in reality they are still at risk.
Once a person has decided to end their life,
nothing will change their mind.
In fact, experts know from studying individuals who have survived suicide attempts that they are ambivalent until the very last moment leading up to the event. The majority do not want to die, they simply want to end their suffering. 100% of survivors that have attempted suicide by jumping from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge said they regretted their decision immediately after jumping.
There are many risk factors that may help determine if a person is at a high risk for attempting to end their life by suicide. It is important to understand the difference between risk factors and warning signs. While risk factors may indicate that a person is at a high risk to experience suicidal behavior, this designation does not speak to the immediate threat of suicidal behavior, which is where warning signs come into play. Statistics show that those who have previously attempted suicide are 38 times more likely to die by suicide than those who have not attempted suicide. Those with a history of alcohol abuse are six times more likely to die by suicide than those without such a history. In addition, people with mood disorders and access to fatal means are at a higher risk of suicide than those without.

The following are among the 10 most common risk factors, though there are many more:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide, abuse, and/or mental disorders
  • Active alcohol and/or substance abuse
  • Family history of alcohol and/or substance abuse
  • Underlying psychiatric and/or mood disorder
  • Experienced traumatic life event
  • Access to lethal weapons and/or substances
  • Social isolation and/or alienation
  • Medical conditions such as a chronic ailment or terminal illness that could worsen depression
  • Conflict over sexual identity and/or other personal relationships that may worsen feelings of shame and isolation
Identifying the warning signs of suicide can often mean the difference between life and death. The importance of recognizing common warning signs of suicidal behavior and knowing when to take action in this emergency situation cannot be overstated. While risk may be high for suicidal behavior, displaying warning signs of suicide such as threatening to kill him or herself, pursuing lethal means and/or a dramatic shift in mood, should be taken seriously as this behavior indicates the immediate risk of suicide as opposed to simply a likelihood. Studies show that, while risk factors can affect an entire demographic and occur more frequently in certain communities or cultures, warning signs are specific to the individual who is in crisis and in need of immediate professional medical intervention.

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10 most common warning signs of suicide

  • Extreme mood swings and/or personality changes
  • Increased fixation on death, suicide and/or violence
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Communicating feelings of hopelessness, such as saying they have “no reason to live”
  • Communicating a desire/plan to die by suicide
  • Giving away belongings/items of special meaning or significance
  • Obtaining a weapon or other means of lethal self-harm
  • Increased alcohol and/or substance abuse
  • Engaging in risky and/or dangerous behavior
  • Loss of interest in people, things, places and activities they previously cared about
Getting help for suicidal thoughts is the most important step of the process. First and foremost, give yourself permission to seek help from a professional. Taking action to save a life is not “wrong” or “bad”; on the contrary it is the most effective thing you can do for yourself or someone else who is in crisis. This comprehensive resource lists suicide prevention hotlines, available 24/7, for those who need help wherever they are in the U.S. or Canada.

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In addition to using the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, there are many other ways to reach out for help if you are in crisis. In an emergency, experts suggest that you call 911, your doctor, or a crisis intervention specialist, for example, or go to a medical or psychiatric clinic or facility that can help you right away. Do not feel that you have to remain isolated or be alone. Understand that the professionals/law enforcement/interventionists you seek out are there to help and support you in working through your suicidal thoughts.

What to Expect When You Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • You may hear a brief recorded greeting welcoming you to the Lifeline.
  • There will be music on the line during a short hold, while you are being directed to your local Lifeline center.
  • You will be connected to a live, local counselor to assist you immediately.
  • If needed, your counselor can refer you to the nearest local mental health facility for in-person assistance.

How to Help Others

Helping someone who is suicidal may seem like a difficult task. While helping to potentially save a life is of utmost importance in this situation, knowing the right steps to take is crucial to providing effective help for a friend or loved one in crisis. You can start simply by paying attention to warning signs, talking openly about suicide, and letting them know you are there for them. You may be the key factor in connecting this person to a professional who can help them through this painful time.

Helping the person reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or their doctor can be helpful. Reassure them that they are not alone and that you and the other professionals involved are there to support them. In an emergency, call 911 for immediate assistance if your safety or the safety of the suicidal person is compromised. Avoid leaving the suicidal person alone and remove any lethal means from their reach. Offer your continued support, holding their hand if necessary, until professional help arrives.

Do's for helping othersThings Not To Do
Be authentic when talking with that person. Be yourself and talk openly and honestly with them; they will not expect you to use the perfect words but will sense that you are truly concerned if you simply mean what you say.DON'T argue or act combative. Avoid argumentative statements that could make that person feel "wrong" for feeling their feelings, such as, "but you have so much to live for," or "think of how your suicide will hurt your family."
Just listen. The suicidal person may need to simply vent their feelings, anger, or frustrations, however hostile or intense their emotions may seem to you at that moment. In general, let yourself be more of a listener and less of talker in this situation. Remember: their willingness to express themselves and unload is a positive sign.DON'T lecture the suicidal person. A person in crisis does not need to hear your opinion about their actions from a moral, ethical, or religious standpoint. Try to be objective, and do not judge them for their actions or shame them for their beliefs.
Be sympathetic, understanding, patient, and calm. It takes a lot of strength and courage for a suicidal person to share their story with someone. If they are able to open up to you, they are relying on you to be accepting and non-judgemental about whatever they have to say.DON'T swear to secrecy. As much as you may want to promise confidentiality, if the life of the suicidal person is at risk, you may have to seek help from a mental health professional to ensure their safety. You also don't want to break their trust.
Be direct and matter-of-fact about suicide. Don't tiptoe around the subject for fear that you will be putting ideas into the person's head. Listening to their concerns and tackling the subject head-on is the best way to show you are comfortable discussing it, and that you are a trusted confidante.DON'T offer advice or try to fix their problems. Avoid offering your own solutions or promising unrealistic answers to "solve" the suicidal person's issues. They should not feel like they are being a burden or that they have to justify their thoughts or feelings to you.
Offer hope when they need it most. Your offer of unconditional support and encouragement can be crucial to a suicidal person. Let them know they can seek professional help, and reassure them that their feelings are temporary and that you value their presence in your life. DON'T blame yourself. While you can always offer hope and support to those experiencing suicidal thoughts, you cannot control the actions of others. You cannot "fix" someone else or take on the responsibility of repairing or restoring anyone's mental state.

Suicidal individuals often feel they have no choice other than suicide, that they have no control over their situation, and that no one close to them can understand what they’re going through. Though it may seem difficult to decipher, knowing when someone requires emergency care is critical. Recognizing an emergency, such as when a person is threatening to kill him or herself and has the means to do so, can help to potentially save a life. When any or all of the following signs are present, remain calm and act immediately to seek professional help.

How to know if it is an emergency:

  • The person has suddenly lost/gained a lot of weight or drastically changed their appearance
  • The person has removed him/herself from all social activities and become reclusive
  • The person is suddenly unable to maintain a routine/schedule including keeping their job
  • The person is suddenly participating in dangerous behavior including substance/alcohol abuse
  • The person is suddenly involved in other harmful situations that seem out-of-character including abusive relationships or anonymous sex

What to do if it is an emergency:

  • Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
  • Stay with the person, or if you must leave, ask someone you trust to stay with the suicidal person; do not leave them alone
  • Remove all lethal weapons, medications, and other means of potential harm from the premises
  • Accompany the person to an emergency room or psychiatric clinic with walk-in services
  • Avoid putting yourself in a dangerous situation; call 911 for your own safety, if necessary

How Do We Talk About Suicide?

Openly talking about suicide is not something most people have experience doing on a regular basis. However, if you should find yourself in the position of needing to lend an ear to suicidal person, knowing how to positively interact with them can be a crucial step towards getting help and potentially saving a life. Though you may instinctively feel very emotional about the suicidal person’s statements, generally you should avoid reacting in a way that is judgemental or makes the person feel isolated. The following are just a few examples of positive conversation-starters, questions, and words of encouragement for a person with suicidal thoughts:

  • “I have been concerned about you and wanted to see how you are doing.”
  • “How can I help support you right now?”
  • “Have you considered getting help?”
  • “I’m here for you. You are not alone.”
  • “I care about you and I want to help.”

Resources for Help

  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center – This comprehensive resource provides online tips and in-depth research to support suicide prevention, targeting individual age groups, demographics and settings. The site also features information about training events, webinar opportunities, and current news.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – As the online component of the nation’s most comprehensive hotline-based-provider of suicide prevention services, SuicidePreventionLifeline.org offers immediate online resources for those in crisis, including live chat, an in-person crisis center locator function, and options for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – At AFSP.org, visitors can find a local chapter of the organization, which offers programs in all 50 states, in their community. This resource offers a wide range of support not only to those experiencing suicidal thoughts or who have attempted suicide, but also those who have lost someone to suicide or are concerned for someone else.

Most people experience some form of depression now and again in their lives. While you are not alone in feeling depressed or suicidal, it can be difficult to know when to seek treatment. Experts offer these rules of thumb to know when to get help: if your depression has lasted for longer than two weeks, if you are contemplating a plan for suicide, and/or if your depression is interfering with your social/work/family life, it is time to reach out to a professional. While not for everyone, the following are just a few of the many treatment options available for those seeking help for suicidal thoughts or debilitating depression. Always consult a medical professional to determine the right course of treatment for you. If you feel you are in crisis and need help immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 911.

Psychotherapy

Certain types of psychotherapy, including behavioral therapy, have proven effective in treating depression in suicidal patients. Often used effectively in combination with other treatment such as psychiatric medication, psychotherapy can help a person with depression to improve coping strategies and manage daily stressors in their life. Psychotherapy can also help depressed patients to find and treat the source of their suicidal thoughts and/or depression. To this end you can expect your doctor to ask questions about any recent trauma or life changes, current or past substance or alcohol abuse, and/or any medications you are currently taking.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common and most effective methods of treating patients who have attempted suicide or have suicidal thoughts, when used in conjunction with other therapies including psychiatric medication and/or inpatient treatment. Typically, CBT patients are treated for chronic depression, or depression lasting more than two years, through a combination of antidepressant medication and CBT sessions. The sessions may last for a period of 12-16 weeks (initially) with a psychotherapist. This type of therapy is aimed at helping patients to recognize and replace negative thought patterns and dysfunctional behavior with healthier cognitive processes and positive deliberate actions.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) was one of the first treatment methods developed specifically as a form of intervention for severely depressed and suicidal patients. Originally created as a behavioral therapy targeting women, DBT is now used for male and female patients with noted success. This therapy may be combined with antidepressants or psychiatric medication and/or other behavioral/talk therapies. It focuses on improving the emotional health of the suicidal individual, as patients who are suicidal typically feel out of control of their emotions. DBT is aimed at developing skills in patients that allow them to identify and regulate feelings and emotional responses in a way that is more stable in the long-term.

Medication

Medication may be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments for depression and/or suicidal thoughts; antidepressants are commonly prescribed for such symptoms. While there are more than 22 psychiatric medications currently approved by the FDA for treatment of depression, each medication will work differently from one patient to the next and individuals must seek a personalized care plan from a healthcare provider to receive a prescription tailored to their needs. Some suicidal patients see positive results beginning in as little as 3-4 weeks from taking anti-depressants as directed by their healthcare provider, though it is common for patients to try several medications and dosage adjustments before finding the right one for them.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is an intervention option for those with suicidal thoughts who are in need of immediate medical attention and round-the-clock care. The intake process for patients admitted to an inpatient treatment facility typically involves a comprehensive evaluation to help address their immediate and short-term medical and psychiatric needs, followed by a supervised detoxification, if necessary. While admitted as an inpatient, treatment may involve individual or group psychotherapy and/or medication, as well as the development of an aftercare plan. This may include continued residential treatment, intensive outpatient care, partial hospitalization, or traditional outpatient psychotherapy.

High-Risk Populations

Though the warning signs of suicide are relatively universal, risk factors for suicide may vary according to age, psychiatric disability, and sexual orientation, among other criteria. Statistics show that some groups are at a higher risk of suicide than others and may need to be monitored carefully for suicidal thoughts, dangerous behavior, substance abuse, and other warning signs. These are among the highest-risk suicide demographics in the U.S. today:

People with Psychiatric Disabilities

People with psychiatric disabilities comprise one of the largest populations of suicide risk in the country. Principal mental disorders including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are among the most common conditions affecting people across all demographics, present in more than 90% of suicide deaths. Those suffering from depression and other mental illness at the same time are at especially high risk, as are those with substance abuse issues and/or anxiety disorders if a principal mental disorder is also present. Though treatment is different for everyone, many people with psychiatric disabilities are treated with a combination of medication, such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers, and psychotherapy. Experts agree that immediate action is key to addressing the threat of suicide in this high-risk group, and to reducing symptoms in individuals affected by mental health disorders.

  • National Institute of Mental Health – This resource offers help for suicidal people with psychiatric disabilities via links to both suicide hotline-based and in-person treatment facilities, targeting individual conditions including anxiety and depression and bipolar disorder.
  • MentalHealth.gov – The mental health division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers various methods of direct assistance for people in crisis with mental disabilities, including access to immediate help, and also features information on mental health insurance and benefits, as well as available clinical trials.
  • Treatment Advocacy Center – This program is focused on presenting the straight facts about recognizing risk factors and warning signs of suicide in individuals with mental disabilities, and taking action provide help and support, erase stigma, and eradicate barriers affecting suicide prevention.
Teenagers and Students

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teenagers and students aged 15-24 in the U.S. While the cause of suicide and suicide attempts in this group is often complex and may be multi-faceted, statistics indicate that the stress, confusion, and self-doubt that accompanies adolescence often contributes to the risk of suicide in this demographic. While not all young people who have experienced depression, their parents’ divorce, alcohol and/or drug abuse or sexual identity confusion will attempt suicide, such events can further increase the risk for some individuals. Suicide prevention experts recommend raising awareness among parents and families of young people. They also recommend promoting suicide prevention resources such as suicide hotlines and online emergency chat services to this young demographic, in the hope that more people can recognize warning signs of suicide in teens and students.

  • Youth Suicide Prevention Program – This national organization provides programs designed to educate teens and students, families, educators, and administrators about school curriculum, training, and community events available to unify young people and facilitate suicide prevention efforts.
  • Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide – This non-profit organization provides links and resources about emergency intervention services for teens at high risk for suicide, with a focus on developing acute skills of educators and counselors in this area, including online training and progressive educator programming.
  • Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program – This resource is focused on making suicide prevention programs accessible to all young people by tearing down the barriers affecting communication about suicide and eliminating the stigma around suicide in our communities.
LGBTQ Communities

People in the LGBTQ community, especially youth, are more likely to attempt suicide than those in the heterosexual population. While suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24, LGB youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, and nearly half of transgender youth have considered suicide. Though these statistics are alarming, experts suggest the risk of suicide is high in the LGBTQ community due to widespread the victimization, bullying, and physical and verbal harassment that they are subject to on a regular basis. Each episode of harassment increases an LGBTQ person’s self-harm risk by 2.5%, on average. Comprehensive resources including those listed below are aimed at increasing awareness of suicide prevention programs and promoting acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

  • The Trevor Project – This program is the nation’s only 24/7 suicide hotline specifically for young people in the LGBTQ community, and also provides education resources for counselors, therapists, suicide hotline volunteers and healthcare providers treating this group.
  • Family Acceptance Project – This resource focuses on helping families increase acceptance of LGBTQ relatives by implementing training, consultation and intervention programs aimed at suicide and mental illness-prevention.
  • It Gets Better Project – This program takes a holistic approach to creating a healthy living environment for those in the LGBTQ community, including direct access to a variety of emergency suicide hotlines and other resources specifically for immediate care of LGBTQ individuals in crisis.
Veterans

Veterans are at a high risk of suicide due to their exposure to traumatic events during combat. While serving in the military, service men and women may see and experience trauma that is severe and atypical of day-to-day civilian life, which may lead to depression, anxiety, addiction, and/or other psychiatric illnesses. Many military veterans also display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a bodily response to overwhelming fear and the threat of death in the field. When veterans experience a buildup of these stressors, and are unaware of how to reach out or unwilling to seek help, they may become suicidal. As of 2010, there were more soldiers who died by suicide than perished in the Afghanistan war. Programs such as the Veterans Crisis Line offer comprehensive services for veterans and homeless veterans, allowing them to access support through local VA and community facilities or live chat confidentially online.

  • VeteransCrisisLine.net – This online resource offers 24/7 confidential support to veterans and their families, including homeless veterans, who are in crisis and need to find a local facility or chat live online.
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – The mental health division of the U.S. VA offers a compendium of national, state, and local resources for finding healthcare as well as self-help for suicide prevention and other conditions related to mental illness.
  • Stop Soldier Suicide – This program is focused on a preventive approach that provides support to military personnel as they transition out of service and into civilian life as veterans, offering evidence-based research and counseling specific to the traumatic experiences of military life.
The Elderly

Later-life suicide is a growing epidemic in the U.S. that many people are unaware of. While the elderly accounted for just under 14% of the overall population in 2012, more than 16% of all suicides nationwide were attributed to this group. Among elderly men and women over the age of 65, the risk of suicide increases even further with age, with white males over the age of 85 at the highest risk of suicide among this group. Depression, often undiagnosed and untreated, is among the leading causes of suicide in the elderly. Individuals in this group may experience more than one stressful event that can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts, including the recent death of a loved one, chronic pain, and/or social isolation. The following organizations offer help to those in the elderly population in the form of suicide prevention and awareness programs.

  • Center for Elderly Suicide Prevention & Grief Related Services – This online resource offering 24/7 support to senior citizens in crisis was founded alongside the Friendship Line hotline, manned by expertly trained volunteers, to address the specific needs of elderly depression and suicide risk.
  • American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy – This organization focuses on increasing awareness among the general public of warning signs of suicide in elderly individuals, and offers guidance toward psychotherapy and counseling services for elderly patients in crisis.
  • Programs For Elderly – This worldwide resource offers information and recommendations for support for not only elderly suicide prevention but also elderly abuse and aging awareness and sensitivity programs.

For a growing number of young adults, the mounting pressures of college can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. In fact, nearly 31% of college students had seriously considered suicide at some point in their lives as of the 2013-2014 academic year, compared to only 25% five years prior. Knowing there is a high likelihood of stress in college, recognizing stressors, and taking measures to maintain mental health even in pressurized situations can help to promote suicide prevention in this group. Below, we explore in-depth the statistics of suicide risk for college students on campuses nationwide.

The Rise of Suicide on Campus

The risk of suicide among students at U.S. colleges campuses has continued to rise over the last decade. While acute causes may differ from one student to another, experts suggest that the overall pressures of adjusting to academic and social demands of college life may lead some students to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. While students with existing psychiatric illnesses may be more likely to experience suicidal behavior in college, other contributing factors that commonly emerge at this life stage include sexual identity confusion, alcohol/drug use, and relationship difficulties.

Studies suggest that millennials face a remarkably high standard of expectations from their families and society to achieve success in college. With this expectation of perfectionism comes increased suicide risk in this generation. While many U.S. college campuses have increased such programming, implementing accessible counseling and mental health programs is key to “normalizing” preventive behavioral healthcare, eliminating the stigma around mental health, and increasing awareness of risk factors and warning signs.

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Transitioning from High School to College

Transitioning from high school to college can be challenging for any student. One study on emotional health of students in transition reported that half of college students were so affected by stress that they could not complete school work for the entire first year. For those suffering from mental illness or suicidal thoughts or those in recovery from a suicide attempt, this transition can potentially activate stressors and increase risk for suicide beyond that of the typical college freshman.

College-bound students with psychiatric disabilities can be more easily overwhelmed by the academic and social expectations of their new surroundings than the typical student. Today, roughly 13% of college students have been diagnosed with a mental health condition such as ADHD, depression, or an eating disorder. In fact, onset of mental illness can begin as early as 14 but commonly coincides with a person’s college years, with symptoms of many conditions first appearing in people 18-24 years old.

Choosing a College

Like many aspects of transitioning from high school to college, choosing a college may present additional challenges for those with psychiatric disabilities or those at a high risk for suicide. Identifying a tailored set of criteria specific to your concerns can help to meet your individual mental health needs on campus. Consider exploring a school’s resources, including what kind of on-campus counseling is available, whether or not they offer 24/7 emergency care, and what is covered in your student health insurance policy regarding mental health benefits. If mental health is of primary concern, selecting a school with comprehensive behavioral healthcare and health and wellness programs is key to maintaining a healthy balance between academics and socializing on campus.

10 things to look for in a mental-health-friendly college

1. The Jed Campus Program

A membership of college campuses nationwide, the Jed Campus Program focuses on organizing efforts of collaboration within school counseling/administration systems to promote prevention of mental illness, substance and alcohol abuse, and suicide of college students.

2. Healthy balance between academic and social campus cultures

While managing both a college education and the college experience can be challenging for any student, those with severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and/or tendencies toward mental instability often have an especially hard time adjusting to this balancing act. Choosing a school that values both kinds of cultures may be more accommodating for students with special needs.

3. Extensive freshman orientation opportunities

As part of the sometimes awkward adjustment to college life, students with mental health issues who are new to college may have an especially hard time making friends and finding comfortable socializing opportunities on campus. Look for a school that offers diverse orientation events for new students.

4. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) program on campus

This far-reaching organization, widely considered the gold-standard of college counseling programs, provides psychological services to students with mental health concerns on the majority of college campuses nationwide. A school that hosts CAPS events on campus is likely to be aware of the latest developments in school counseling and counselor education services.

5. At Least one psychiatrist on-staff to manage medications

As part of a comprehensive behavioral therapy team or group of counselors, look for at least one psychiatrist among the team of specialists on campus that is qualified to manage and administer psychiatric medications. If not on campus, ask about the referral process to visit such a specialist at an affiliated medical facility or clinic.

6. 24-hour emergency response services or after hours referral services

Ideally your school would have a plan in-place to provide immediate care to students in the case of a psychiatric emergency in campus. In the absence of an on-campus crisis response team, look for an efficient referral process to an after hours or 24-hour emergency care facility nearby.

7. Extensive disability services for students

While the services provided on most college campuses are designed to address a number of physical and learning disabilities in addition to mental disabilities, schools with comprehensive disability services are typically better equipped to accommodate students who may benefit from special services such as assistive technology.

8. Diverse health and wellness programs

A school with highly developed health and wellness programs is likely aware of the positive effects of healthy practices such as yoga, nutrition counseling, and eating disorder prevention. In short, holistic efforts toward health and wellness on campus make for happier, healthier students overall.

9. Peer counseling opportunities on campus

Ideally, your school will host its own on-campus peer counseling opportunities courtesy of organizations such as NAMI or Active Minds; if not offered on campus, many schools will direct students in need of these services to affiliated local chapters of such national organizations.

10. Extensive training for mental health counselors on campus

Schools that take the time and effort to invest in providing resources such as suicide prevention training and stress-management techniques to on-staff counselors are more likely to be genuinely interested in improving the mental health of their at-risk student body.

Surviving the loss of a loved one due to suicide can lead to a complex grieving process and is difficult for many to comprehend. While grief is complicated by nature, suicide survivors are often struggling to understand additional aspects of the death of their loved one that they cannot resolve or come to terms with. For instance, they may still be in shock from the sudden death of their loved one, or feel they are responsible for not noticing warning signs.

Learning about positive ways to show support can make all the difference to a suicide survivor in the grieving process. Often times the first step can be as simple as letting the person know you are there for them, and you are concerned. While it is important to show the suicide survivor that you are willing to openly discuss what happened and acknowledge the suicide, you are allowed to sometimes be at a loss for the perfect words. Even if you don’t know what to say, a simple, “I want you to know I care,” can speak volumes.

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National Suicide Resources

  • I’m Alive: The first online crisis center manned completely by volunteers trained and certified in crisis intervention.
  • Suicide.org: A non-profit organization providing suicide hotlines and other suicide awareness tools and resources, categorized by state.
  • Suicidology.org: A non-profit membership organization dedicated to suicide prevention efforts and professional training for suicide counselors and specialists.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Mental health organization providing local counseling and healthcare and crisis intervention services in all 50 states.
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): An extension of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIMH promotes awareness of suicide prevention through clinical trials and evidence-based research.

Support Groups

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Use the search tool to find a support group to help those at-risk in your area.
  • Samaritans.org: Online counseling program offering confidential internet therapy via email or chat for those depressed or having suicidal thoughts.
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: Use the support group locator tool to find a virtual DBSA support group to join online, in real time.
  • NAMI Connection: Searchable using the online tool, programs are offered locally throughout the U.S. to provide peer-to-peer support for people with mental illness to share stories and encouragement.
  • Mental Health America: The organization’s Peer Services offer counseling, support groups, and skill-building programs in various satellite sites across the U.S.

Resources for Those Helping Others

  • Befrienders.org: Worldwide organization offering tools and resources to those with a friend or family member in crisis or who is suicidal.
  • The Bright Side: Community resource offering work-from-home opportunities for volunteers and donors who would like to make a difference.
  • The Jason Foundation: Resource dedicated to cultivating prospective counselors and educators specializing in youth crisis intervention and suicide prevention awareness.
  • Speaking of Suicide: A blog-based site founded by a licensed psychotherapist to openly discuss and research suicide and provide information for aspiring counselors and educators in this specialty.
  • Network for Good: Features a comprehensive list of volunteer opportunities at various suicide prevention organizations across the U.S.

Resources for College Students

  • ULifeline: The online component of The Jed Foundation campus program, ULifeline offers confidential internet support for mental health issues affecting college students nationwide.
  • American College Health Association: Includes alphabetized listings of resources surrounding health and mental health of college-related topics including LGBT and campus violence.
  • Facebook: The social media site features a “reporting” function if you see a suicidal comment on a friend’s page and click the attached link, which sends an encouraging message to them via email to call a hotline or begin a confidential chat online.
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Features a search tool to find a local licensed therapist in your area who specializes in mental health.
  • Students Against Depression: Created by students, for students to increase awareness of warning signs and provide direct peer-to-peer support and provide resources for those in crisis.

Resources for Those Who Have Lost Someone to Suicide

  • I’ve Lost Someone: The suicide survivor network of the AFSP, offering comprehensive resources for both immediate grief support and long-term care.
  • Alliance of Hope: Multi-faceted grief and support resource featuring a community forum and memorial message board dedicated to those who have died by suicide.
  • Survivors of Suicide (SOS): Online support resource for suicide survivors featuring member-protected discussion boards, memorials, and special section for friends of survivors.
  • Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: Offers online suicide survivor resources as well as national listings of support groups for those grieving the suicide of a loved one.
  • AAS Suicide Loss Survivors: A component of the American Association of Suicidology, this resource for suicide survivors includes tips, tools, training opportunities and book recommendations.

For Further Study