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Preventing Suicide Among Students

Handling Suicides

Common feelings in suicide

  • A crisis that causes intense suffering and feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.
  • Conflict between survival and unbearable stress.
  • Narrowing of patient’s perceived options.
  • A wish to escape (it is an escape rather than a going-towards).
  • To punish self and/or to punish others with guilt.

Indicators for increased chance for suicide

  • Withdrawal Behaviour for few days
  • Mention of suicide repeatedly.
  • Suicide note
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • A history of serious psychological problems.
  • A history of impulsive, poorly controlled and destructive Behaviour.
  • A history of continuing academic problems and learning difficulties.
  • Adjustment difficulties with family, school, peers etc.

Helping suicidal adolescent

  • Establish rapport
  • Allow the student to narrate his/her own story
  • Use age appropriate language
  • Tactful questions. Avoid leading questions e.g. “you don’t want to kill yourself”
  • Obtain detailed description of any suicidal plan ask about availability and lethality
  • Smooth movement from one topic to another


  1. Communicate that people do get through this – there are other children who feel as badly as he/she feels now.
  2. Advise the child to give himself/herself some time e.g., “I will wait 24 hours before I do anything”. Or a week. Suggest that feelings and actions are two different things – just because you feel like harming / killing yourself, doesn’t mean that you have to actually do it right this minute.
  3. Periodically, keeping in touch over the phone will reduce the intent of ending their lives. Counseling needs to be practical and useful.
  4. Long lectures with a moralistic tone are not advised. These make the already depressed student guiltier and his intent stronger.
  5. The student should be advised to contact a professional counselor as soon as possible. If not efforts should be made to encourage him to meet his teachers or school counselors or talk to his parents. The more he talks about his problems to various people; he is likely to feel much better.
  6. A student who is severely depressed and expresses absolute helplessness about future is more at risk than a student who talks about casual things.
  7. No medicines should be prescribed over the phone