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Section I–Common Health Problems - Suicidal Thoughts

HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

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 Section I–Common Health Problems

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Suicidal Thoughts

“I’ve had
feelings of just wanting to disappear. It’s more than depression, like a
complete giving up of life and all of its routine tasks.”

T., University of Wisconsin

For persons 15 to 24 years old, suicide is
the 3rd leading cause of death, behind unintentional injury and homicide.
More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart
disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung
disease combined. Young women attempt suicide 4 to 8 times more often
than young men, but males are 4 times more likely than females to die from

Signs, Symptoms

A lot of people think about suicide or say
things like, “I wish I was dead,” at times of great stress. For most people,
these thoughts are a way to express anger and other emotions. They may not,
in and of themselves, be a sign of a problem. The signs and symptoms that
follow need medical care.

Writing a suicide note

Suicidal threats, gestures, or attempts

Thoughts of suicide that don’t go away or
occur often

(Note: In some
suicides, no warning signs are shown or noticed.)


Grief. Loss of a loved one.
A side effect of some medicines. One
is isotretinoin. This is prescribed for severe acne. Some
antidepressant medicines can increase the risk for suicidal thoughts
and behaviors, too. This is especially noted in children and
adolescents. This risk may be higher within the first days to a
month after starting the medicine. Persons who take antidepressants
should be closely monitored.
A family history of suicide or
Money and relationship problems


Suicidal threats and attempts are a person’s
way of letting others know that he or she needs help. They should never be
taken lightly or taken only as a “bluff.” Most people who threaten and/or
attempt suicide more than once usually succeed if they are not stopped.
Emergency care and hospitalization are necessary after an attempted suicide.
Persons with suicidal thoughts should seek medical treatment.

Questions to Ask

{Note: In some suicides, no warning signs are shown or

At this time, are any of the following present?
  • Suicide attempts
  • Suicidal gestures (e.g., standing on the edge of a bridge,
    cutting the wrists with a dull instrument, or driving recklessly on
  • Plans are being made for suicide (e.g., the person has purchased
    or gotten a weapon or pills that could be used for suicide)
  • Repeated thoughts of suicide or death

Has the person recently done any of the following?
  • Given repeated statements that indicate suicidal thoughts, such
    as “I don’t want to live anymore,” or “The world would be better off
    without me.”
  • Given away things he or she values most, gotten legal matters in
    order, etc.

With thoughts of suicide or death, are any of these conditions present?
  • Depression or bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Any other mental health or medical condition

Have thoughts of suicide come as a result of using
drugs and/or alcohol or taking, stopping, or changing the dose of a
prescribed medicine?

Does the person thinking about suicide have
signs and symptoms of depression?

Does the person thinking about suicide have other
blood relatives who attempted or died from suicide?


Have suicidal thoughts come as a result
of any of the following (or any other) upsets in life?

  • A relationship breakup
  • The death of a loved one
  • A rejection or being ridiculed



If You Are Having
Thoughts of Suicide:

Let someone know. Talk to a trusted
family member, friend, or teacher. If it is hard for you to talk
directly to someone, write your thoughts down and let someone else
read them.
Call your school’s Mental Health
Service, your local Crisis Intervention Center or Suicide Prevention
Hotline. Call directory assistance or the operator if you need help
finding the number. Follow up with a visit to your health care
provider or your school’s Mental Health Service.

How to Help a
Friend Who May Be Suicidal:

Take him or her seriously. If your
friend threatens or informs you of suicidal intentions, believe
the threats.
Listen. Allow your friend to
express his or her feelings.
Keep the person talking. Ask
questions to keep a discussion going including, “Are you
thinking about hurting or killing yourself?”
Express your care and concern.
Tell your friend how much he or she means to you and how
important it is to you that he or she stays alive.
Take action if you suspect the
person is seriously considering suicide. Get help.
Urge the person to make the call
for help. If he or she is already under the care of a mental
health provider, have the person contact that provider first. If
not, other places to contact are Suicide Prevention and Crisis
Intervention Hotlines, your school’s Mental Health Service,
Student Health Service and hospital emergency departments.
Make the call yourself if the
person cannot or will not.
Watch and protect him or her.
Remove all sharp objects, pills, guns, and bullets,
Express interest and give support.
Most suicidal persons feel isolated from other people.
Don’t judge. The person needs you
to listen, not to preach moral values.

While getting help, do not
leave a person who threatens suicide alone.

For Information, Contact:

Your school’s Student Counseling or
Mental Health Service, or Student Health Service

Your local Suicide Prevention Hotline or
Crisis Intervention Center

American Foundation for Suicide

888.333.AFSP (2377) (This is not a crisis hotline.)

Metanoia Communications

800.SUICIDE (784.2433)

6th edition. American Institute for Preventive Medicine
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December 08, 2005