BY THE REV. SCOTT M. KERSHNER
Suicide is very difficult for us to speak about. It is shrouded in pain and fear and shame, often keeping us from talking directly about a very serious health issue.
Did you know suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-34 in Pennsylvania? Even that doesn’t begin to tell the whole story. Many more are haunted by thoughts of suicide or attempt it.
Suicide prevention is something we all need to have an awareness of. It’s important to have a framework for understanding suicide. Professionals speak of risk factors, warning signs and protective factors. Risk factors and warning signs are often confused. It’s important to know the difference.
Risk factors are life circumstances that make it more likely, percentage wise, that a person will consider, attempt or die by suicide. These include a range of stressors from mental health struggles to a family history of suicide or easy access to lethal means.
Warning signs indicate a particular individual is actually at risk for suicide. These include a range of behaviors from talking about wanting to die or kill themselves to researching or making plans to do so.
Protective factors are circumstances that make it less likely that a person will consider, attempt or die by suicide. These include access to clinical mental health resources, strong familial and friendship bonds and limited access to lethal means. The goal is to reduce risk factors, respond to warning signs and increase protective factors whenever possible.
You can learn more about risk factors, warning signs and protective factors at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, reach out for support to any trusted person right away. In terms of campus resources, the Counseling Center at Susquehanna is here for you. So is the University Chaplain—that’s me. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
It is so important for those who are trapped in loneliness, despair and pain to know they are not alone. We want you to live.