Oakland University Counseling Center

Graham Health Center, East Wing
408 Meadow Brook Road
Rochester, MI 48309-4452
(location map)
(248) 370-3465

Monday - Friday: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Suicide Prevention

What is suicide?

Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States and the third leading cause of death for people 15-24 years old. Suicide is often a cry for help by the individual. He or she is often feeling hopeless and helpless and thinks that suicide is the only way out of the feelings or events he or she is experiencing in his or her life.

What causes suicide?

Many factors can lead to suicide. These include:

  • Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses (i.e. schizophrenia and personality disorders)
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Loss of a close friend or family member to suicide
  • Loss of an important relationship
  • Loss of employment or status
  • Academic issues
  • Financial problems
  • Serious illness
Who commits suicide?
  • Anyone can commit suicide
  • Women are more likely to attempt, but men are more likely to complete a suicide
  • Native Americans and Caucasians have higher suicide rates
Myths and Facts About Suicide

Myth: Asking someone if they are suicidal will give them the idea.

Fact: If they are suicidal they've already been thinking of it. If they haven't, you're not going to give them the idea. It can let them know that it is OK to talk to you about their thoughts regarding suicide because you were comfortable enough to ask them about it.

Myth: Only crazy people think about suicide.

Fact: Most people have thought of suicide sometime in their lives. Most people who do attempt suicide or complete a suicide do not suffer from severe chronic mental illness. They are often confused and feel helpless about a situation.

Myth: If a person is considering suicide, they are beyond help and nothing can be done.

Fact: Most suicidal situations are time-limited crises and are based on unclear thinking. Finding support and solutions to help them through this crisis until they can think clearly again is important.

Myth: People who make unsuccessful suicide attempts just want attention.

Fact: Sometimes suicide is a way to get attention in order to get help. Just dismissing it may make things worse. Without proper help, they may make a more serious suicide attempt next time.

Myth: Suicidal people are fully intent on dying and have a right to die.

Fact: Many suicidal people want to live better, even while they are stating that they want to die.  Most often their suicidal communication indicates a need for relief from the intense emotional pain.

Potential Warning Signs of Suicide
  • The majority of those who attempt suicide give warning signs.
  • They may talk about suicide and sounding helpless and hopeless.
  • They may prepare for their death by making a will, giving away possessions, or by saying good-bye.
  • Persistent sadness that seems excessive given the person's life situation.
  • Inability or unwillingness to communicate with others.
  • Psychological changes such as irritability, anxiety or withdrawal.
  • Neglect of school work, personal grooming or other routine tasks.
  • Changes in physical health such as changes in sleep habits, appetite, weight, or energy level.
  • Changes in social behavior such as inability to enjoy usual social activities, sudden and severe change in drug use or sexual activity.
  • Personal crises and major losses or rejections.
  • Preoccupation with death or preparation for death.

None of these signs alone may necessarily indicate suicidal potential or even depression, but several indicators, particularly if they indicate a change from the person's usual mood and style of coping, deserve close attention.

Hints for Talking with a Suicidal Person

It takes an act of courage and compassion to reach out to the depressed person. Our culture's emphasis on privacy and individual choice make it hard to decide how to intervene if someone seems dangerously depressed. However, a firm and sensitive presentation of your observations and concern about a person may be the most caring thing you can do. Here are a few suggestions about approaching someone you are worried about.

  • Tell the person you have noticed a change in his/her behavior. Ask how you can help.
  • Ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.
  • Allow the person to talk and be heard; don't try to "make it all better."
  • Don't argue about whether he/she should live or die. Instead, try to listen patiently to feelings.
  • Take every suicidal act, threat, or comment seriously.
  • Encourage the person to seek professional help; provide phone numbers of the Counseling Center, crisis line, and psychiatric emergency room.
  • If the individual refuses to get help, call or visit these offices yourself for support and consultation. The Dean’s office, the OU Counseling Center, or someone in authority.
  • Be sensitive to your own needs and limits. Dealing with a suicidal person can be an emotional and physical drain.