There is nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Feelings of
depression, hopelessness and pain overtake the senses. Is there any
Many people contemplating suicide are plagued with similar
Beverly Thurber, executive director of the Suicide Resource
Center of Larimer County, said suicide is the second leading cause
of death in college students. Over 90 percent of people who die
from suicide suffer from a mental illness such as depression or
bi-polar disorder, although only 15 percent were in treatment at
the time of death.
“Suicide is the end result of a long battle with depression,”
Thurber said. “It’s a potentially lethal illness.”
Thurber said warning signs that suggest a person is
contemplating suicide include him or her changing eating and
sleeping patterns, altering his or her behavior or appearance,
losing enjoyment in usual activities, talking about death, giving
away possessions, engaging in risky behavior, using drugs or
alcohol, making a suicide plan, and increasing feelings of
irritability or sadness.
However, sometimes a person who acts depressed suddenly appears
happier or more relaxed. Michele Faris, a psychologist at the
University Counseling Center, said this happens because the person
has resolved the issue for himself or herself.
“If someone who has had depression for a long time suddenly
without reason becomes happier or peaceful it’s a warning they’ve
made the decision to commit suicide,” Faris said. “They’ve made
peace with the decision and seem to be a little happier, a little
better. They’re not just snapping out of it.”
Thurber said sometimes suicidal people will engage in high-risk
behavior such as driving drunk or doing drugs because they cannot
quite make the decision to take their own life.
“(They’re thinking) I can’t quite bring myself to kill myself,
so I’ll put myself in a position where it will just happen in a
passive way,” Thurber said.
While men are four times more likely than women to die from
suicide, women attempt more frequently, Thurber said. A reason for
this is that men tend to use more lethal methods, such as
“Basically since the 1950s suicide rates among college-aged
women have gone down, while for men it has tripled,” Thurber
The risk increases with age, Thurber said. The bulk of suicides
occur in middle age (35-55) for males. However, young adults are
also a high-risk group.
Silvia Sara Canetto, a psychology professor who has done
extensive research on the cultural aspects of suicide, said there
is a large difference between men and women when it comes to
suicide attempts and success.
“In the United States, suicide is more commonly viewed as a male
behavior,” Canetto said. “Rates are greater for death by suicide in
men. Suicide attempts are more common in young adult women.”
Canetto said in the United States attempting suicide is
considered a “feminine act.” While women attempt suicide more often
than men, they are also more expected to fail.
“To fail means to survive,” Canetto said.
Many specific risk factors are associated with college student
suicide rates, Thurber said. The use of drugs or alcohol,
especially solitary usage, is a common way to self-medicate and
make the pain go away.
Trigger events, such as a breakup with a significant other,
being diagnosed with a chronic illness or losing a loved one also
pose risks for someone already exhibiting signs of depression.
These events are not considered the cause of a suicide attempt,
Thurber said, but more like the last straw.
Other risk factors include access to firearms and stress.
“Stress by itself doesn’t make (someone suicidal); it is
depression: the sense of hopelessness because (the person) sees no
other alternative to stopping the pain than ending their own life,”
Faris said other personality disorders can contribute to the
risk of suicide.
“Sometimes people with certain personality disorders have
trouble modulating their emotions and feel very angry or vengeful.
They commit suicide as a way of sending a message to someone else,”
People also will attempt suicide to ask for help, Faris
“Sometimes people attempt suicide as a cry for help or as a way
to get attention,” Faris said. “Unfortunately, sometimes they are
successful and they didn’t mean to be.”
Thurber said there are three steps to helping a person who may
be contemplating suicide.
The first step is to listen.
“To be a good listener doesn’t mean trying to solve their
problem,” Thurber said. “Let them talk about how much pain they are
The second step is to ask if the person is considering
“It doesn’t plant the idea in their head,” Thurber said. “It’s
one of the most helpful things to do.”
The third step is to take action.
“Take that person to someone who can help,” Thurber said.
If a person is actively suicidal, do not leave him or her alone,
Thurber said. Once people have attempted suicide, they are four
times more likely to try again.
“Lots of people who get help go on and never attempt suicide
again,” Thurber said. “But if they don’t get help they are more
likely to get into that state and attempt again.”
Faris said there is always help available at the University
Counseling Center, including individual and group therapy and
stress management programs. Medication has also proved to be
helpful with depression or other disorders that cause a chemical
imbalance in the body.
It important to remember that suicide is preventable, Faris
“I think whenever you can give people hope you can prevent
suicide,” Faris said.
How to get help:
Numbers to call if you or a friend
is contemplating suicide:
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE
University Counseling Center:
Connections, Larimer Center for
Mental Health: 221-2114; after hours: 221-5551
Roadhouse Helpline Crisis and
Information Center: 491-5744
Suicide Resource Center of Larimer
Colorado Helpline: 211