“The call of Death is a call of love. The End can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative, if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation, and submit to its calming, blissful embrace.”

-Hermann Hesse

Suicide is the third highest cause of death among youth 15 to 24 years old, and rates of suicide have doubled in this age group since the 1970s according to data reported by the American Association of Suicidology, which informs the rest of this article. Due to its prevalence, it is important to understand the causes of suicide, and what can be done to prevent it from continuing to occur.

The wish for death is born when one’s pain exceeds his resources to cope with that pain. Upon experiencing imesurable grief, and having no source of support in facing it, one so seeks to end their life in order to stop suffering.

There are many risk factors which may lead to suicide ideation and attempts. A history of mental illness naturally predicts suicide: 90% of suicides reported in 2010 were cases diagnosed with a mental illness, with the highest rates seen in those diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, and substance dependency.

However, many people who have not been formally diagnosed with a disorder may still consider ending their lives. A history of abuse, whether physical or sexual, is a risk factor for comitting suicide, as well as a history of violent and reckless behavior. Less obvious, but just as serious, risk factors also include a history of unstable relationships, like divorce or seperation. Having had an aggressive relationship with one’s parents also contributes to this risk factor. Finally and most markedly, a history of self-injury, like cutting oneself, predicts suicide.

All of these risk factors, whether they are acute enough to warrant the diagnosis of a disorder or not, breed the wish for death precisely because they strip a person of their strength to cope with pain. Violence and abuse in a family causes one to feel lost or abandoned, unable to rely on theircaregivers as a source of support. Similarly, frequent mobility makes it more difficult for one to build a social support system. As a result, a very low self-esteem may incubate, and the potential to harm themselves may be born as a reaction to lack of affection.

As severe as such cases may sound, the behavior of someone contemplating suicide isquite distinct, and there is much hope for you to spot these symptoms in a loved one in time to intervene. A withdrawal from friends and regular daily activities may be the first warning sign you notice in a person contemplating suicide, as well as a corresponding loss of interest or pleasure from activities that used to elicit it. Hearing one talk about having no purpose or find no meaning in life is a common thought as well. Serious anxiety and feeling like there are no solutions to one’s problems is also characteristic of this condition, as are unusually violent outbursts, impulsive behavior, and a high increase of drug use.

A significantly distressing life event may bear the fruit of death in a person who you know well and perhaps would not expect to resort to committing suicide, which is why it is important to be alert for these warning signs. Most obviously, if a person has expressed intent to kill himself, has a definite plan, or is looking for the means to do so, he is at high risk. Someone who has shown no previous interest in firearms but suddenly comes into possession of one should be of concern, given that they remain the most commonly utilized method of suicide by essentially all groups. About one-half (49.5%) of the individuals who took their own lives in 2010 used this method, although men tend to use firearms more often than women as a means for suicide.

But what can one do to help a person who has spawned the desire to die? If you spot the symptoms I described in a loved one, having a regular conversation about how their days are going is a normal way of starting a dialogue about the way they feel. Inquire politely, but directly, about anything that may be distressing. If they express that they are overwhelmed, and see no way out of his problem, offering a solution may bear relief.

However,if upon trying to help they continue to express the hopelessness and despair that characterizes someone thinking about dying, it would be important that you simply asked, “have you thought about killing yourself?” As wacky as that sounds, it is best to speak openly and directly about the subject, otherwise you will make the situation uncomfortable for everyone. Your confidence will lead the way in the conversation, whereas being hesitant in asking will make the person hesitant to respond honestly.

If you find that they have not been contemplating suicide, they will most likely not be offended, rather appreciate the concern and the two of you can move on with your day. If they reveal to you that they have, let the know that you are with them to accompany them through their pain. Remember that feeling abandoned and alone begets the wish to commit suicide, and so showing concretely that they are not alone is the best way to combat the impulse towards death. Of course, you can then link them to the counseling and psychological services on your campus. Most colleges offer psychotherapy free of charge to students, and I know for certain that Mason does. Offer to walk with them to their first session to show them where it is and show support, ensuring they will have the strength to seek help.

The vast majority of people I have met in my experience are open to seeking help and overcoming their pain. They manifest these symptoms as a cry for help, and so at the first sign that there is another who cares for their lives, there is hope that their will to live may blossom. Living is quite a task. But in spite of all its trials, it is nonetheless worthwhile, particularly when we have the love and support of the people close to us.

Should you have any spontaneous questions about how to talk to someone who declares they have the means to kill himself and wishes to do it, know that you can call a crisis hot line at 1 800 273 8255 and a specialist will walk you through how to communicate with the person in order for him to choose to continue his life. Thanks for reading everybody, stay safe.

“But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.”
-Albert Camus


Krysinska, Karolyna, and Martin Graham. The Struggle to Prevent and Evaluate: Application of Population Attributable Risk and Preventive Fraction to Suicide Prevention Researach. Blackwell Publishing, Oct. 2009. Web. Feb. 2014.

United States of America. American Association of Suicidology. US Census Bureau. By A.L. Berman. American Association of Suicidology, 2010. Web. Mar. 2014.