Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people ages 15-24 and is the second leading cause of death in college students. Mental illnesses such as depression and substance abuse disorders are the leading risk factors for suicide. Substance use also increases the risk of suicide because of the impulsivity, impairment in judgment, and depressant effects that can result from alcohol and drug intoxication. Other factors that increase the risk of suicide are stressors such as disciplinary problems, interpersonal losses, family violence, sexual orientation confusion, physical and sexual abuse, and being the victim of bullying.
Suicide is a relatively rare event and it is difficult to accurately predict which persons with these risk factors will ultimately commit suicide. However, there are some possible warning signs such as:
- Talking About Dying -- any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self-harm
- Recent Loss -- through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed
- Change in Personality -- sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
- Change in Behavior -- can't concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
- Change in Sleep Patterns -- insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares
- Change in Eating Habits -- loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
- Fear of losing control - acting erratically, harming self or others
- Low self-esteem -- feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, "everyone would be better off without me"
- No hope for the future -- believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change
Many individuals do not receive the help available to them on campus. In a 2003 study taken from University Counseling Centers across the country, out of the 160 student suicides reported by all of the schools involved, Only 31 of those students were receiving help from the counseling center at the time.
Resources at W&L
- University Counseling Center, 458-8590. Location: Early-Fielding Building. Urgent Hour Monday-Friday at 11am
- Four full-time Counselors: Christy Barongan, Ph.D., Janet Boller, Psy.D., Rallie Snowden, MSW, & Kirk Luder, M.D.
- Peer Counselors
- Health Center: Call 540.458.8401 for 24-hour coverage. Two health care providers: Jane T. Horton, M.D. & Matthew Crance, PA-C.
- For a referral to a private therapist please contact the Health Center or Counseling Center
- Crisis Text Line: Text "GO" to 741-741 (free, 24/7, confidential)
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
- Rockbridge Area Community Services Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline: 1.855.222.2046
Additional links on depression and suicide
- American Psychological Association
- National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
- The Center for Collegiate Mental Health
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- Suicide Among College and University Students