Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean help isn’t wanted. Suicide may result from distorted rational thinking and decision making, not from a lack of character or moral weakness.

Suicidal persons may give clues to those around them. However, national campus data indicate that approximately 80 percent of students who complete a suicide were not seeking services at the university counseling center on their campus, so connecting students to care is of utmost importance. The initiation of a suicidal event is likely to be triggered by a major life stressor, such as a loss or threat of loss—for example, the death of a family member or friend, the end of a significant relationship, or being academically dismissed from school.

High-risk indicators of suicidal intent include suicidal thoughts; a negative perception of life; intense feelings of hopelessness and futility, particularly if accompanied by anxiety; feelings of alienation and isolation; the idea that death is an agent for the cessation of distress; a personal and/or family history of depression; a personal and/or family history of previous suicide attempts; a history of substance abuse; and/or a history of self-damaging acts. A suicidal student who alerts someone is often intensely ambivalent about killing him/herself and usually is open to discussing his/her suicidal concerns with someone. Students who talk about or write a lot about death and dying; have a specific plan for killing themselves; have a means (such as medication, knives, or a gun); abuse alcohol and other substances; and tend to be socially isolated are considered at greater risk of making a lethal suicide attempt.

Imminent danger signs include highly disruptive behavior, e.g., hostility or aggression; the inability to communicate clearly, e.g., disjointed thoughts or slurred speech; loss of contact with reality, e.g., seeing/hearing things that are not there or beliefs or actions at odds with reality; overt suicidal thoughts and gestures (indicating that suicide is a current option); and homicidal threats. In such cases, call 911 from campus to alert Public Safety officers of the situation.  Following this, you should inform Counseling Services (906-487-2538) and then a supervisor or department head.

If you suspect that a student is suicidal: