Recognizing the Warning Signs of Suicide in College Students

College students have their own culture and language. You may know your college friends better than their own parents do, and you may be able to tell that something is wrong with one of your classmates when the professors and faculty advisors can't. You can use your insights to help your friends and classmates find help when they are having problems.

While there is no foolproof method of determining that someone is thinking of hurting him or herself, the following signs might indicate that a college student is considering suicide:

 * Good students who suddenly start ignoring assignments and missing classes may have problems, including depression or drug and alcohol abuse, which can affect their health and happiness and put them at risk of suicide.

 * Students who don't have friends or whosuddenly reject their friends may be at risk. A friend who suddenly rejects you, claiming, "You just don't understand me anymore," may be having emotional problems.

 * College students may be physically or emotionally abused by a member of their family or their girlfriend or boyfriend. Abusive relationships can negatively influence the way a college student feels about themselves and their life. Signs that a person may be in an abusive relationship include unexplained bruises or other injuries that he or she refuses to discuss.

 * Significant changes in a college student’s weight, eating or sleeping patterns, and/or social interaction style may indicate that something is wrong.

 * College students may suffer from depression or have thoughts of suicide if they have a difficult time adjusting to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students have higher suicide attempt rates than their heterosexual peers.

If you witness these or any other warning signs of suicide or depression (please see www.health.umd.edu/warningsigns), encourage the individual to call for help from the University Health Center Mental Health Service at (301) 314-8106, Monday through Friday 8:30am-5pm. After hours, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This hotline is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. In case of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

If you are helping a friend who is exhibiting warning signs of suicide, it might also be a good idea to seek support for yourself.