Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds in the United States. Half of all mental health conditions start by age 14 but are commonly left untreated. Creating a safe environment in college and our communities is critical to promoting psychological well-being in young adults. Young adults go through enormous physical, emotional, and social changes going from their high school and home to college and beyond, causing a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health in schools and communities can contribute to ending young adult suicide.
Knowing The Warning Signs
There are steps we can all take to destigmatize mental health. First, we can educate ourselves and others on the warning signs of suicide. Warning signs indicate that a person may be considering suicide. Signs usually include dramatic changes in a person’s behavior and communication. Examples include statements such as, “I don’t want to wake up tomorrow,” “Everyone would just be better off without me,” or “I hate my life.” A person may also give away possessions that have meaning, exhibit an increase or decrease in sleeping or eating patterns, display reckless behaviors, increase their use of drugs or alcohol, act agitated and withdraw from usual social activities.
What you can do
When we identify a person who shows the warning signs described, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many students are unsure how to handle a situation when they see a friend struggling with mental health. Some students don’t want to get friends in trouble if they confide in someone else. However, do not remain silent. If you notice warning signs in a friend, confronting them openly and asking, “Hey, have you been thinking about suicide?” is the best way to save their life. If you learn they have been feeling suicidal or struggling with their mental health, elevate the situation immediately to a counselor or person who can help assist in getting the support necessary. College counseling and psychological services are available, and counselors can help your friend. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
Mental Health “Check-in Chats”
Talking openly about mental health is one of the best ways to create a safe environment among fellow students and to promote conversations about mental health. Encouraging conversations with friends (at lunch or free time) about their thoughts prompts everyone to talk openly and share feelings. This type of open environment discourages students from bottling up their emotions. The tendency to suppress your feelings is a risk factor that may lead to impulsive actions, including suicide. Having a “mental health check-in” chat with your friends is one way to help promote everyone’s well-being and destigmatize mental health at school.
We can all be part of the solution. Peer pressure exists throughout college and social situations. Exclusivity in friend groups, pressure to share your homework with a peer, or pressure to drink or take drugs are all examples of “peer pressure.” To some, these may seem insignificant, but peer pressure is one of the leading causes of suicide among young adults. The desire for social approval results in many succumbing to these pressures. Peer pressure creates an unhealthy mental environment and often is the cause of students exhibiting warning signs of suicide. Stopping peer pressure is one way you can be part of the solution to preventing young adult suicide.
You Are Not Alone!
The holiday season can be a stressful time, especially for college students. Take a moment to check in on yourself. Do you feel alone, helpless, or depressed? Remember that you are not alone and there will always be people to help you. Below is a list of a few resources right at your fingertips.
National Emergency Resources
● Crisis Textline: Text START to 741-741
● Crisis Textline for Students of Color: Text STEVE to 741-741
● National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org
● LGBTQ Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386 or TheTrevorProject.org
● Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860 or translifeline.org
● Addictions Hotline: 844-289-0879 or drughelpline.org/
● Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, select 1