Suicide is a complicated matter that doesn’t have one main cause. Certain factors such as substance abuse, depression or anxiety may prevent a person from thinking clearly about the situation. Sometimes these conditions are not identified or noticed; other times, someone will show obvious symptoms or signs.
Know the signs — The more warning signs the greater the risk.
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
Risk Factors — Situations that could increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts.
- Previous suicide attempt
- Loss of health
- Relationship issues
- Death or illness of a loved one
- Decrease in grades or performances
- Family history of depression
- Someone close to you has died by suicide
Talk about it — Asking the suicide question does not increase the risk.
- Ask directly - "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"
- How you ask the question is less important than that you ask it.
- Talk to the person alone in a private setting.
- How not to ask the question - "You're not suicidal are you?"
Suicide is not the problem, only the solution to a perceived insolvable problem.
- Listen to the problem and give them your full attention.
- Offer help in any form.
- Then ask, "Will you go with me to get help?" or "Will you let me help you?" and "Will you promise not to kill yourself until we've found some help?"
Any willingness to accept help, even if in the future, is a good outcome. The best referral involves taking the person directly to someone who can help. The next best referral is getting a commitment from them to accept help, and then making the arrangements to get that help.
A number of external resources are available to support students and their families in crisis. To name a few:
- Colorado Crisis Support Line: 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or Colorado Crisis Text: text TALK to 38255
- Safe2Tell: 1-877-542-SAFE (7233)
- Trevor Project Hotline for Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ youth 866-488-7386
Programming called ‘Signs of Suicide (SOS)’ is taught every year in all middle and high schools. SOS shows students how to identify the signs of depression and suicide in themselves and their peers and encourages help-seeking behaviors through the SOS program acronym, ACT® technique (Acknowledge, Care, Tell).
In addition to programming at the secondary level, all Five Star schools reinforce protective factors for students and families such as:
- Promoting positive relationships with adults in school and at home
- Increasing the availability of after-school activities
- Creating a positive and inclusive culture and climate at the school
- Teaching adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict resolution
- Providing easy access to mental health and health providers
- Emphasizing the importance of open communication with youth and families