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Every September we recognize Suicide Prevention Month to spread awareness and resources for individuals in our communities who may be struggling.  When we look at the numbers, we are able to better understand the impact of suicide here at Xavier and beyond:

From 1999 to 2018, suicide rates have increased 35% according to the CDC.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults between the ages of 18-24 and approximately 1,100 U.S. students die annually by suicide.

In an August 2020 CDC report looking at the impact of COVID-19, 25.5% of 18-24 year olds have seriously considered suicide in the last 30 days.

Parents and family play an integral role in helping to support your Saint’s mental and emotional well-being and fostering connection.  Here’s a few key ways that you can help support your Saint:

Reassure your Saint that they can always come to you, no matter the problem.  Given the pressures many of our students feel to succeed in college, many students may not reach out to family for support for fear of embarrassment, self-criticism, or judgment of inadequacies. Reassure them that you’re there to love and support them no matter what they may be experiencing.

If your Saint tells you that they are having suicidal thoughts, respond in a calm and reassuring manner. Thank them for telling you.  You don’t have to have all the answers but remember that sharing that they are struggling is a big step towards finding support. Together, you can make a plan that will help them get connected to appropriate professional help.

Know the warning signs of suicide.  Many students go through a lot of changes while in college and may be navigating new or more difficult challenges.  The following signs and symptoms can indicate that someone may be experiencing thoughts of death or suicide:

Talking about suicide or death in person, via text, or on social media

Expressing guilt (“I’m a terrible person”) or hopelessness (“What’s the point?” or “Things will never get better”)

Withdrawal or isolation such as spending less time with friends or family

Irritation or aggression especially in males

Giving away personal possessions, pets, or passwords to social media accounts

Changes in substance use such as increase of alcohol or drug use

Increase in risky behaviors or decision making

Change in physical appearance (not showering, grooming), eating or sleeping habits (too much or too little)

Dramatic change in mood whether positive or negative

Ask directly.  Many people believe asking someone if they are having thoughts about death or suicide will somehow plant the idea in their mind.  The opposite is actually true – asking directly can cause someone to feel relief that a loved one noticed that they are struggling.  Ask your Saint: Are you having thoughts of death or suicide?  If they say yes, ask how long they have been feeling this way, if they have a plan, and if they know how or when they would act on their plan.  This information helps us to better understand their risk and will help us to take the important next steps.  If they say no, remind them that it’s common when people are struggling to have thoughts like that and, if they ever do, they should come to you or get connected to resources that can help.

Involve your Saint in the decision-making process. Research shows that people who are struggling are more likely to reach out for support if a loved one encourages them to do so. Tell your Saint that you’re concerned, that you love and support them, that they are not alone, and that you’d like to get them connected to additional resources that can help. Ask them which of the following resources they would like to reach out to:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. The Lifeline is comprised of a national network of over 150 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.  The Lifeline also has a dedicated line for Veterans and Spanish-speaking people.

Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support via a medium people already use and trust: text.  For people of color, text STEVE to 741741 to connect with a counselor who is also a person of color. 

The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386; text START to 678678) is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people.

Encourage them to get connected to resources.  Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are signs of emotional distress and should always be taken seriously. For students, high levels of stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and an uncontrollable event can all be risk factors for developing thoughts of death or suicide.

At Xavier, students can contact any Counselor, teacher or administrator. Whether speaking with a Counselor or another faculty member at Xavier, Xavier can help get your Saint connected to necessary resources to help navigate the challenges they face. Pursue a higher level of care if your Saint’s suicidal thoughts or behaviors escalate.  If you believe your Saint cannot maintain their physical safety, please dial 911 or local police to do a welfare check.  Your Saint may benefit from a short hospitalization to ensure your Saint can receive immediate treatment and to ensure their safety.  Additionally, on a case-by-case basis, it may be helpful for your Saint to take a break from school and stay home to focus on receiving medical health treatment.

Learn more about mental health and suicide prevention.  Xavier and other communities have many opportunities to learn more about mental health and suicide prevention.  Check out some of these great opportunities for you or your Saint to learn more about these important topics and providing a community of care and support for yourself or loved ones:

Mental Health First Aid.  Just as CPR helps you assist an individual having a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid helps you assist someone living with or experiencing a mental health or substance use-related challenge. In this course, you will learn risk factors and warning signs for mental health and addiction concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations, and where to turn for help.  Join the more than 2.4 million Mental Health First Aiders nationwide who have been empowered to help support others through their recovery and resiliency – the belief that people living with these challenges can and do get better, and can lead meaningful and productive lives.  

To find a course in your community, visit https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/take-a-course/

The JED Foundation’s Mental Health Resource Center.  The JED Foundation is the nation’s leading non-profit organization that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for young adults.  The Mental Health Resource Center offers many resources for learning more about mental health and how to have a conversation with a friend or family member.

Recovery can take many different paths and it’s important to maintain ongoing support and connection for your Saint.  Reflect on how you model your own health and well-being to your Saint and encourage opportunities to talk about how they’re doing. We all have a meaningful role to play in preventing suicide this September and beyond!

 

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