People in a crisis often lose perspective and the ability to solve problems in an organized and realistic manner. They may resort to less effective coping responses that can make the crisis worse. Sometimes a crisis is so severe that the person's ability to cope is overwhelmed, and the individual becomes suicidal. The suicidal person who insists that the suicidal thoughts be kept secret is not dealing constructively with the crisis.
Most people who are suicidal will communicate their thoughts and feelings, often directly. Suicidal people frequently express helplessness and hopelessness regarding their current stresses and the future. Special "good-bye" statements or actions, such as giving away prized possessions, might also indicate a suicidal crisis. ALL SUICIDAL COMMUNICATIONS MUST BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
Depression and Other Risk Factors for Suicide
- Depressed mood.
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities.
- Extreme changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
- Inattention to appearance.
- Extreme guilt, self-blame, or feelings of worthlessness.
- Heightened anxiety.
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Additional Factors that Increase the Risk of Suicide
- Alcohol and other substance abuse.
- High levels of anger or rage.
- Previous or current impulsive behaviors.
- Recent, overwhelming losses; traumatic stress.
- Previous suicide attempts.
- Exposure to someone else's suicide attempt.
- Access to means (e.g., weapons, pills).
How to Respond
- Listen and offer support.
- Help the person explore feelings.
- Widen options and explore alternatives for problem solving and positive action.
- Ask direct questions about the person's intentions. Ask if the person is considering suicide. Ask if they have a plan.
- Communicate your concern for the well being of the person.
- Recommend that the person contact a mental health professional; call one yourself; or offer to accompany the person to an initial appointment.
- Call Campus Police if you believe the risk of suicide is immediate.
- Do not tell the person to "go ahead".
- Do not say everything will be all right.
- Do not tell the person about someone who "has it worse".
- Do not swear secrecy to the suicidal person.
- Do not leave the person alone if you believe the risk of suicide is immediate.
William & Mary Key Resources
Counseling Center, (757) 221-3620
Student Health Center, (757) 221-4386
Campus Police, (757) 221-4596
Dean of Students Office, (757) 221-2510
Jed & Clinton Health Matters Campus Program