Roughly one in four college students experience suicidal thoughts. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death among individuals ages 10 to 25, with the number of attempts or deaths increasing over the years, says UCF Professor of counselor education Glenn Lambie.
We talked with Lambie for guidance on the misconceptions and realities as well as ways we might help someone else or ourselves when navigating thoughts of suicide.
What are some common myths about suicide?
Myth No. 1: Talking about suicide and asking if someone feels suicidal might encourage suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Talking to individuals gives them a chance to talk about how they feel and share their fears and struggles.
Myth No. 2: Many people talk about suicide but never actually attempt or die from it.
Talking about suicide is a sign someone is seeking help or considering suicide. It is important to encourage people in crisis to talk about how they feel and directly ask if they are considering suicide.
Myth No. 3: Suicide deaths or suicide attempts happen without warning.
There are many signs someone is considering suicide. Examples may include previous attempts, preoccupation with death, suicidal thoughts, giving away possessions, significant changes in behaviors, lack of interest in the future or sudden contentment or positivity (as they may have decided to end their pain through suicide).
Myth No. 4: If someone threatens suicide, they are just looking for attention.
Always treat suicidal thoughts and attempts seriously. If someone attempts to gain attention, it is a sign they need help.
Myth No. 5: If a young person has thoughts of suicide, they are depressed.
While depression contributes to many suicides, it does not have to be present for a person to attempt or die by suicide.
Myth No. 6: Suicide risk is genetic.
Suicide may be overrepresented within a family because of similar experiences and environments. A family history of suicide may also increase awareness for other family members. However, suicide risk cannot be inherited genetically.
If someone attempts suicide, are they always at risk of suicide?
Many people who consider suicide may only be at risk for a distinct period. If individuals receive appropriate help and support, they can recover and go on to live meaningful lives.
What are potential warning signs of suicidal thoughts?
- Talking about death or wanting to die
- Talking about feeling hopeless or empty
- Planning or researching ways to die
- Talking about having shame, guilt, being a burden or feeling trapped with no way out
- Feeling intense physical or emotional pain
- Giving away possessions
- Saying goodbye to others
- Demonstrating risky behavior
- Change in eating or sleeping
- Withdrawing from others
Does social media play a role in suicide?
Social media may increase pressure on an individual to appear effortless in their perfection, a phenomenon known as Duck Syndrome, because on the outside, they look calm; while beneath the surface they are frantically trying to keep up. Individuals with this drive for perfection may seem happy and content but internally struggle with deep questions, perceptions of failure and suicidal thoughts — all in isolation. Also, individuals may post suicidal thoughts on social media. These posts are warning signs, so contact one of the crisis lines listed below for help.
What steps can I take to seek help if I am contemplating suicide?
If you are thinking about suicide, reach out for help as soon as possible. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, religious leader or professor about how you feel. Reach out to one of the many resources available for help from a trained professional. You may also talk to your doctor or other healthcare providers about how you feel to receive resources and support.
How can I help a friend, co-worker or family member who is considering suicide?
If you know someone who may be considering suicide, seek help as soon as you can. It is often those closest to individuals who can recognize the first warning signs of suicide. There are several ways you can provide support.
- Help the individual connect with a trained professional, like a doctor or mental health professional, to get the support and treatment they need.
- Do not leave them alone.
- Do not promise to keep their suicidal thoughts a secret. Tell a trusted friend or family member who may help find the support they need.
Where can I find helpful resources?
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) provides counseling support for students and referrals, as needed. Crisis services are also available after hours.
In Central Florida
Community Crisis Line
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Text the Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741 (any time of the day or night)
SAMHSA Referral Helpline to find a mental health provider in your area