Signs and Symptoms

Depression and thoughts of suicide can impact a person's life in different ways. Not everyone experiences depression and suicidal tendencies the same way. Some people may have behavioral changes while others experience physical changes. Below are some signs that may indicate someone is depressed or considering suicide.

Signs of depression and suicidal thinking:

  • Excessive or ongoing sadness 
  • Anxiety
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or feeling trapped
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping habits
  • Isolating oneself from friends and/or family
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Unusual mood changes or increased anger/aggressiveness
  • Engaging in self-harm or reckless behavior

Signs of acute risk of suicide:

  • Talking openly about committing suicide
  • Talking about "wanting out" or "ending it all"
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, suicide when this is out of the ordinary
  • Taking unnecessary or life-threatening risks
  • Seeking out a firearm, pills, or other means of suicide

Depression alone or in combination with substance abuse, aggressive behavior, and/or anxiety is found in over half the people who die by suicide. If depression is present, substance abuse, anxiety, impulsivity, and rage may significantly increase risk. Depression and substance abuse can be a particularly dangerous combination. Suicide may also be triggered by stressful events such as failing an exam, losing one's job, interpersonal loss, crises in significant relationships, and changes in body chemistry. 

How to Help

If you notice any of the above warning signs in a friend or loved one, you have reason to be concerned. There are ways that you can be helpful to someone who is thinking of taking their life.

What you can do in a non-emergency situation:

  • Don't feel like you need to handle things on your own.  You can consult with someone at CAPS anytime. When we are closed, crisis counselors are available by phone.
  • Talk to the person in a private setting. Be honest and express your concerns in a caring way. For example, you can begin by saying something like "you seem really down lately and I want to make sure you're okay." Allow the person to talk as much as they need to and do not minmize their feelings.
  • Talk openly about thoughts of suicide. For example, "Are you feeling so bad that you've thought about suicide?"
  • Take your friend seriously - most people who die from suicide give warning of their intent.
  • Don't ignore your own limitations. Help as much as you reasonably can and don't hesitate to seek professional assistance at any point.
  • You may also need support as the helper. Be sure to take care of yourself as well; you can seek support from friends, family, or a counselor.
  • Removing access to suicide means even for a short time can help save a life. If you are concerned about someone who has access to a firearm, a trigger lock can be obtained at the Public Safety Office on the 2nd floor of Cascade Hall, or at CAPS after talking with a counselor. If the person agrees, Oregon State Police can come remove the firearm and place it in safe keeping (not with crime evidence). DO NOT bring the firearm to Public Safety/OSP yourself. Request a pick-up from OSP. The non-emergency number on campus is 541-737-3010, or 541-737-7000 in an emergency. Also consider whether the person has access to potentially harmful prescription or non-prescription drugs. If they do and are willing to give them to you, they can be discarded of in the secure drug dropbox in Cascade Hall right outside the Public Safety office, no questions asked. 
  • If you are in doubt about what to do, call or come to CAPS, or consult with your local mental health agency if you are outside the area. If there is immediate risk, follow the directions below right away.

If there is imminent risk:

  • Call 911 (or 541-737-7000 on campus) or take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room. Ensure that the person is not left alone. 
  • Consider options for restricting the person's access to lethal means such as firearms or pills. If there is a firearm present, police can remove it when they arrive. The Oregon State Police will place it in safe keeping (not with crime evidence). If the person does not want to relinquish their firearm, a gun lock can be obtained as described above.
  • While you are waiting for help to arrive, you can use the steps listed above for guidance. Allow the person to express their feelings. Listen. Offer kindness and words of encouragement. 

CAPS is located on the 5th Floor of Snell Hall. When we are closed, crisis counselors are available by phone at 541-737-2131 (select option 1). If someone is in imminent risk of suicide, call 541-737-7000 if you are on campus, or 911 if you are off campus.