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Telltale signs of suicide

Illustration: Alex Gomez · The Sentry

How to Help others in a time of need

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death throughout the United States. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death and continues to be a pervasive issue. 

Although everyone is different, there are common signs for someone who might be contemplating suicide. This could be the withdrawing and ceasing of activities that used to bring them joy, loss of energy, lack of care in one’s appearance e.g. low hygiene or no desire to wear clean or matching clothes, and sudden and extreme changes in food consumption. Along with those signs may be self-harming behavior, such as cutting themselves, driving recklessly, or heavily using drugs and alcohol—all of which are common cries for help. 

Certain words or phrases can also give hints to others that someone might be in a time of need. Phrases such as “It’d be better without me,” “No one can help me,” or “I can’t do it anymore” are all causes for concern. Even so, if someone grows calm after a long period of isolation and sadness, then it is possible that they have resolved to take their life. This could be followed by the act of giving away possessions and saying goodbye.

With that being said, not all those who are suicidal are actively trying to end their life. Some people are passive; they won’t go through with it, but they wish to die and wouldn’t fight it if it were to happen. 

When these signs become apparent, it is best to confront the person firsthand. Suicideline.org.au suggests starting a conversation by expressing worry for them and mentioning that they haven’t been themselves lately or to even bring up a troubling sign that they have been displaying and asking them if everything is okay. Becoming available to the person with words such as “What can I do to help you?” Can mean a world of difference.

However, seeking professional help, especially with high risk of suicide, is the best option. By taking someone to a hospital or to see a mental health professional, they will be placed in a safe environment and will receive the help they need. 

There is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. According to their website, “Counselors will be there to help guide anyone who needs them, by asking questions regarding their safety, feelings, social situation, and if they have any thought of suicide. If a counselor feels that person is in danger, they will recommend emergency services, and/or gather additional contact information to ensure someone’s safety.” Counselors are just a phone call away at 1-800-273-8255.

For students especially, visiting the CU Denver Student and Community Counseling Center is another viable option as they provide a therapist to talk to at no cost.

CU Denver Student and Community Counseling Center

Tivoli #454

(303) 315-7270

Crisis Hours:  Mon-Thur 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.  // Fri 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.

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