Loyola University Chicago

Wellness Center

Understanding Risk Factors and Warning Signs of Suicide

Understanding a Suicidal Student

Because every individual is unique, there is no single reason why a student commits suicide.  However, there are several factors that may contribute to a student having suicidal thoughts.  These include:

  • Mental disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse
  • Family history of mental illness
  • New and unfamiliar environment
  • Academic and social pressures
  • Feelings of failure (to live up to one's own or others' expectations) or decreased performance (perceived or real)
  • Major life transition, such as loss of a loved one, breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, failing an exam or course, not getting into one's choice of major, etc.
  • Alienation and loneliness
  • Lack of adequate coping skills
  • Difficulties adjusting to new demands and different work loads

Warning Signs of Someone Considering Suicide

At least 70% of people who commit suicide give some clue about their intentions before making an attempt.  The most effective way to prevent suicide is to know the warning signs:

  • Expressing thoughts of harming oneself, writing about death or suicide, threatening to kill oneself
  • Making statements about hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness
  • Feeling trapped—like there is no way out
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Giving away prized possessions, making a will, or putting other affairs in order
  • Dramatic mood or behavior changes (including a sudden, intense lift in spirits, which may indicate that the person already feels a sense of relief knowing the problems "will be over soon")
  • Losing interest in prior activities or relationships
  • Self-destructive behavior (alcohol/drug abuse, self-injury or mutilation, promiscuity)
  • Risk-taking behavior (reckless driving/excessive speeding, walking in front of traffic)
  • Unusual calling or visiting people one cares about
  • Having no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life