Why Do People Kill Themselves?
The common link among people who kill themselves is the belief that suicide is the only solution to a set of overwhelming feelings. The attraction of suicide is that it will finally end these unbearable feelings. People see suicide as the final solution, a way to ease their unbearable pain. The tragedy of suicide is that the intense emotional distress often blinds people to alternative solutions. It feels like they are alone in a deep fog and they cannot see anything. The truth is that other solutions are typically always available but they cannot see or hear that.
All of us have experienced feelings of loneliness, depression, helplessness, and hopelessness from time to time. It is part of our human nature. The death of a family member, the breakup of a relationship, moving to a new environment, blows to our self-esteem, academic difficulties, feelings of worthlessness, and/or major financial concerns are serious problems which all of us may have to face at some point in our lives. Because each person’s emotional makeup is unique, we respond to situations differently. In considering whether a person may be suicidal, it is extremely important that the crisis be evaluated from that person’s perspective. What may seem of minor importance and rather insignificant to us, may be extremely distressful and painful to another human being. Regardless of the nature of the crisis, if a person feels overwhelmed, there is danger that suicide may appear to him or her as an attractive solution.
At least 70% of all people committing suicide give some clue as to their intentions before they make an attempt. Becoming aware of these clues and the severity of the person’s problems can help us prevent such a tragedy. If a person you know is going through a particularly stressful situation – perhaps having difficulty maintaining a meaningful relationship, adjusting to a new environment, having consistent failure in meeting their preset goals, or even experiencing stress at having failed an important test – watch for other signs of crisis.
Many persons convey their intentions directly with statements such as “I feel like killing myself” or “I don’t know how much longer I can take this.” Others in crisis may hint at a detailed suicide plan with statements such as “I have been saving up my pills in case things get really bad,” or “Lately I have been driving my car like I really don’t care what happens” or “life does not seem worth living anymore.” In general, statements describing feelings of depression, helplessness, extreme loneliness, and/or hopelessness may suggest suicidal thoughts. It is important to listen to these “cries for help” because they are usually desperate attempts to communicate to others the need to be understood and helped. We need to listen to their “cries for help.”
Often, persons thinking about suicide show outward changes in their behavior. They may prepare for death by giving away prized possessions, making a will, or putting other affairs in order. They may withdraw from those around them, change eating or sleeping patterns, or lose interest in prior activities or relationships. A sudden, intense lift in spirits may also be a danger signal, as it may indicate the person already feels a sense of relief knowing the problems will “soon be ended.”
Myths and Facts about Suicide
MYTH: You have to be “crazy” even to think about suicide.
FACT: Most people have thought of suicide from time to time. Most suicides and suicide attempts are made by intelligent, temporarily confused individuals who are expecting too much of themselves, especially in the midst of crisis. They view suicide as the only solution.
MYTH: “Once a person has made a serious suicide attempt, that person is unlikely to make another.”
FACT: The opposite is often true. Persons who have made prior suicide attempts may be at greater risk of actually committing suicide; for some, suicide attempts may seem easier a second or third time.
MYTH: “If a person is seriously considering suicide, there is nothing you can do.”
FACT: Most suicidal crises are time-limited and based on unclear thinking. Persons attempting suicide want to escape from their problems. Instead, they need to confront their problems directly in order to find other solutions – solutions which can be found with the help of concerned individuals who support them through the crisis period, until they are able to think more clearly.
MYTH: “Talking about suicide may give a person the idea.”
FACT: The crisis and resulting emotional distress will already have triggered the thought in a vulnerable person. Your openness and concern in asking about suicide will allow the person experiencing pain to talk about the problem, which may help reduce his or her anxiety. This will also allow the person with suicidal thoughts to feel less lonely or isolated and perhaps a bit relieved. If you talk and listen to that person, you will not give them the idea of suicide. They will appreciate your ability to listen and be patient.
How Can You Help?
Most suicides can be prevented by sensitive responses to the person in crisis. If you think someone you know may be suicidal, you should:
- Remain calm. In most instances, there is no rush. Sit and listen – really listen to what the person is saying. Give understanding and active emotional support for his or her feelings.
- Deal directly with the topic of suicide. Most individuals have mixed feelings about death and dying and are open to help. Don’t be afraid to ask or talk directly about suicide.
- Encourage problem solving and positive actions. Remember that the person involved in emotional crisis is not thinking clearly. Encourage him or her to refrain from making any serious, irreversible decisions while in a crisis. Talk about the positive alternatives, which may establish hope for the future.
- Get assistance. Although you want to help, do not take undue responsibility by trying to be the sole counsel. For example, if you live in a hall, talk to your Resident Assistant or your First Year Adviser. Let them know about your concerns. Seek out resources, which can lend qualified help, even if it means breaking confidence.
Let the troubled person who is suicidal know you care and are concerned. Let them know that you care and are so concerned that you will arrange help beyond that which you can offer. In a situation like suicide, where a person’s life is in danger, it is much more important to help someone get help than it is to keep things confidential. In fact, by keeping such a serious issue to yourself, you may be doing something that is not helpful. If you know someone you suspect may be suicidal and you would like to consult about what to do and how to approach the situations etc., please contact us at the Student Counseling Service.
Oxford Resources – Where You Can Get Help Now?
- Student Counseling Service: 529-4634
- Oxford Crisis and Referral Center: 523-4146
- Psychology Clinic, Dept of Psychology: 529-2423
- Health Services Center: 529-3000
- Miami University Police: 529-2222
- Oxford Police Department: 523-6321
Internet Resources for Suicide Prevention
Below are some links you can follow for further information about suicide and suicide prevention. Please contact us at the Student Counseling Service if you have any questions about suicide, or suicide prevention.