Those who attempt or commit suicide often believe that it is the ONLY solution to overwhelming feelings or experiences. The tragedy of suicide is that the emotional distress that leads people to consider it in the first place is so intense that it often blinds them to alternative solutions. It is, unfortunately, a permanent solution to what is usually a temporary situation.

Every person is different, and therefore, the precipitants to suicide differ for everyone. However, there are some common links. People who consider suicide often feel lonely, hopeless, alone, helpless, or intensely depressed. The death of a loved one, break-up of a relationship, getting fired, failing a test, chronic blows to self-esteem, financial difficulties, and major losses/failures can also lead one to consider suicide.

It is important to remember that everyone is different in how they handle stress and uncomfortable feelings. In considering whether a person may be suicidal, it is imperative that the crisis be evaluated from the suicidal person's perspective. What may seem like a minor problem to one person may be of major importance to another; something seemingly insignificant to one may be intensely distressing to another.

Risk Factors & Warning Signs

A high number of those who attempt suicide give some clues about their intentions before the attempt. Being aware of the clues and the severity of the person's crisis may help prevent this tragedy.

  • People who are in the midst of a major crisis and feel alone, depressed, hopeless, etc.
  • Those who intensely experience real of perceived loss/failure
  • Those who have made attempts in the past
  • Making jokes or comments about suicide: "things would be better if I were dead", "maybe I should end this", "I don't know how much longer I can take this", etc.
  • Indication that they have a plan/means: "I've been saving up some pills just in case", "I think of driving my car off the bridge on the way home", etc.
  • Suddenly giving away valued possessions
  • Saying "last good-byes" or making amends
  • Making a will or putting affairs in order
  • Sudden/uncharacteristic withdrawal
  • Making a will or putting affairs in order
  • A sudden, intense lift in spirits after a depression may indicate the person feels a sense of relief in choosing suicide and knowing that problems will soon be ended
  • Those who are suicidal and also use drugs and alcohol and/or engage in risk-taking or impulsive behavior
  • Those who engage in self-injurous behavior such as cutting or burning themselves as they may accidentally "go too far".

What To Do

Stay calm:
in most cases there is no rush. Take the time to really listen to the person
Be direct:
talk openly about the topic of suicide; this will let the person know that it's "safe" to talk about this crisis with you
Encourage problem solving:
without trying to talk the person out of suicide, encourage him/her to find other solutions. Those who are suicidal may see it as their only viable option, so try to instill hope; discuss the temporary nature of a crisis
don't take full responsibility by trying to be the sole counsel. Seek resources that can lend qualified help, even if it means breaking confidence. Let the person know you are concerned and that you're willing to arrange help beyond what you can offer
Don't leave the person alone:
if the person is at imminent risk try to stay with him/her as you arrange for other help
Empathize and listen:
understand that to the individual, suicide might seem like a valid option. Instead of trying to dissuade them, encourage them to talk about what's bothering them and show understanding and empathy for their situation
Let the person know
how much you care about them and how important it is to you that they're safe
Remove any means the person may have to harm themselves (guns, pills, etc.).

Helpful resources

Counseling & Psychological Services, located on the 2nd floor, Swingle building. Hours: 8:00 am - Noon; 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm. Monday - Friday. 994 4531.

Bozeman Crisis Help Center. Phone: 586 3333

MSU Campus Police. Phone: 994 2121

Bozeman City Police. Phone: 911

Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. Phone: 585 1000.