There is no simple answer as to why people choose to kill themselves. Usually, the emotional upset is so great that the person "just wants to stop the pain." The psychological distress seems so unbearable that solutions other than suicide recede into the background of the mind. Usually a combination of events leads a person to believe that suicide is the only way out. One common thread is that the person feels hopeless about life. Feelings of hopelessness and of low self-esteem can have many causes:
- Breaking up of a close relationship with a loved one or difficulties in interpersonal relationships with family or close friends.
- Worry about grades and concerns about failure or doing less well than one hoped or expected. The strains of intense competition for high achievement can be overwhelming.
- Concerns over physical appearance and personal attractiveness (or lack of it).
- Loss of "support systems" or "emotional safety." New students often have difficulty finding friends and colleagues in their new environment; consequently, they experience a sense of loss and alienation.
- Pessimistic feelings about the future and meeting one's goals, together with an enormous sense of unhappiness.
- The compounding and disorienting effects of alcohol and other drugs.
- Above all, just feeling lonely and isolated, abandoned and alone.
Suicide is a desperate cry for help. Usually that "cry" is preceded by clues or warning signs that indicate an individual is considering suicide as a way out. Recognizing these warning signs is the key to prevention. When someone:
- Threatens to end his or her life.
- Implies that he or she will not be around in the future.
- Gives away prized personal possessions.
- Goes from being extremely depressed to unusually happy overnight.
- Has purchased or acquired a rope or gun.
- Exhibits extreme self-dissatisfaction frequently due to loss (of a loved one, self-esteem, employment, health, or money).
- Has accumulated a large supply of pills.
- Exhibits personality and behavior changes.
- Falls into periods of deep depression.
- No longer cares about college, work, or social activities.
- Talks a lot about death, dying, and life-after-death possibilities.
- Shows a marked lack of energy or enthusiasm.
- Isolates him or herself from friends and family.
- You should realize that almost no one commits suicide without letting others know how they are feeling. Also, many suicides occur just when the individual seems to be getting better. The person then has the energy and means to turn suicidal thoughts into action.
What Can You Do?
Become aware of others around you. Take time to listen; the simple act of showing you care can make the difference between a person attempting suicide or seeking help. Learn to recognize the subtle clues and warning signs of the troubled individual. When you suspect someone is suicidal or in need, contact an expert who can provide practical, knowledgeable aid.
One good rule is not to take full responsibility by yourself, but find the best possible resources that can help the troubled person.
Experts in suicide prevention have learned that suicidal feelings are temporary. Crises can be resolved; help is available.
The suicidal crisis is usually not what the person thinks it is - a crisis of abandonment or emotional pain. In reality, it is a crisis of unclear thinking, and can be helped by psychological, psychiatric, and social treatment. A good rule of life is: Never do any serious, irreversible act while you are upset.
If you suspect that someone you know is suicidal, don't be afraid to talk about it. The clues you may be hearing or seeing are often an unconscious invitation for you to help. Most suicidal people have opposing feelings of wanting to die and at the same time wanting to live. Ask the person about his or her feelings and the changes that you gave noticed. Let he person know that you want to help.
National Suicide Hotline
Suicide Prevention Center
- 24-hour Emergency Hotline
- Dial 911 from any campus phone
Remember . . .
The suicidal crisis is temporary. "Unbearable" pain can be survived. Help is available. You are not alone.