You may have noticed the Student Counseling Center’s table recognizing World Suicide Prevention Day in the University Center two weeks ago. We wanted to challenge the Pacific University community to be present with the reasons that keep us engaged in life. We also wanted to provide accurate statistics about suicide and offer resources to support those impacted by suicide.
One of the most common myths is that talking about suicide will make it happen. In fact, talking about suicide can help get resources to those who need it most. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college-aged students in the United States.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 12.5 per 100,000. The Student Counseling Center collects yearly non-identifiable aggregate data from students that seek services at our center.
During the 2016-2017 academic year, 28 percent of the students that sought services at the Counseling Center reported thoughts of suicide. It is important to remember that a person who is suicidal is often in so much pain that they cannot see any other option.
Suicide is a desperate last attempt to escape unbearable suffering. While those suffering from suicidal thoughts desire to stop the pain, most people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. As supportive community members, we play a critical role in helping an individual who is suicidal, by brainstorming alternate solutions to decrease the psychological pain they are experiencing.
We want to encourage everyone in the Pacific community to look out for one another. This includes noticing changes in one another’s well-being. A suicidal person may not directly ask for help, but that does not mean help is not wanted.
It is important to recognize the more subtle warnings signs of suicide and take those warning signs seriously. Warning signs may include talking about being a burden to others, feeling trapped, feeling hopeless, experiencing unbearable pain, having no reasons to live or talking about suicide.
Specific behaviors to look out for include changes in eating or sleeping habits, increased drug or alcohol use, withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities, reckless or rebellious behavior, looking for ways to kill themselves by searching online, contacting people to say goodbye and or giving away prized possessions.
When these warning signs appear after a painful life event the risk of suicide is further heightened. We encourage our Pacific community to take notice and to ask the question, “Are you struggling with suicidal thoughts?” If the answer is “yes,” do not leave them alone. Try to demonstrate emphatic listening, let them know they are not alone, let them know you care and make a plan for safety by getting them connected to resources that can help.
If you, a friend, a classmate or a family member, is thinking about suicide, try to do everything in your power to get this person the help they need. Call a crisis line for advice, support and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, like a counselor at the Student Counseling Center. Remember those contemplating suicide often do not believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more proactive at offering assistance.
Lastly, strive to continue to support them over the long haul by staying in touch with the person and periodically checking-in. We can all help prevent suicide. If you are having suicidal thoughts or believe someone you know is thinking about harming themselves, visit the Student Counseling Center Monday through Friday from 12-1 p.m. in Forest Grove and 4-5 p.m. in Hillsboro, or call 503-352-2191.
You can also call the Hillsboro National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).