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Suicide Awareness

Suicide, intentionally taking one's own life, is arguably the most tragic and preventable cause of death. People may consider suicide when they feel hopeless and can’t see any other solution to their problems. Often it is related to serious depression, alcohol or substance abuse, recent loss, or a stressful life situation.

An important thing to remember about suicide is that it is an undoable action to a temporary problem. Issues underlying suicidal thoughts, such as depression or substance abuse, can be treated successfully. And, stressful life events can be helped through a supportive network of family and friends or counseling.


A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. Most people who commit suicide don’t want to die; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems. Definite warning signals of suicidal intentions are often present but family, friends, and coworkers may be unaware of the significance of these warnings or unsure what to do about them.

Warning signs may include:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • History of past suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide or violence
  • Isolation or lack of support
  • Financial or social loss
  • Access to lethal means
  • Rage, uncontrollable anger, and seeking revenge
  • Feeling trapped—like there is no way out
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
  • Chronic physical illness
  • Preoccupation with death and dying

Note: having one or more of the above risk factors does not mean that a suicide will occur.

Depression is the greatest risk factor for suicide, with thoughts of suicide, a symptom of depression, preceding most attempts. While self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting or burning, are sometimes precursors to suicide, they are qualitatively different from suicide attempts. Self-inflicted violence is actually a maladaptive attempt at coping, meant to soothe, alleviate anxiety, and increase a sense of power and control.

How does it impact academics?

Suicide ideation is inversely related to forward thinking and planning for the future, components of executive functioning that are crucial to academic success. As a result, an individual engaging in suicide ideation is likely to experience impairment in academic functioning, which can reinforce the thoughts of self-harm, particularly among high-achievers.

How does it impact relationships?

Deeper social relationships can serve as a major protective factor against suicide. However, since depressed individuals have a tendency to withdraw socially, it can be difficult to pick up on signs of suicide ideation. High risk indicators include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and futility
  • A severe loss or threat of loss
  • A history of a previous attempt
  • A history of alcohol or drug abuse

How does it impact the workplace?

Work can serve as a protective factor against suicide and depression in that employment can provide a sense of self-efficacy, achievement, daily social interactions, and structured time. However, it can also be a profound source of stress. Suicide ideation can impede work performance, thus reinforcing depressive symptoms and thoughts of self-harm. An attempt or completed suicide in the workplace and/or classroom can lead to devastating and conflicted emotions, ranging from anger to guilt to sadness. It can also increase the likelihood of another attempt, particularly among young adults.

What to do if you suspect someone is contemplating suicide

Being aware of the warning signs of suicidal ideation is the first step to prevention. It is also important to recognize that raising the issue and talking about suicide will not cause someone to become suicidal. If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, you should:

  • Listen and allow the expression of feelings
  • Offer empathy
  • Be non-judgmental
  • Discuss your concerns for the person directly and honestly
  • Express that you genuinely care about what happens to the person
  • Show calm confidence
  • Provide crisis intervention contact information

Suicidal thoughts or statements by others should always be taken seriously and addressed as quickly as possible. You can call JHSAP at any time and talk with an on-call counselor. If you are concerned about someone’s immediate safety, call Security:

Baltimore Harbor East410-234-9200
Bayview Medical Center410-550-0333
Columbia Center410-516-9700
East Baltimore410-955-5585
East Baltimore Medical Center
(Johns Hopkins Community Physicians)
Eastern Campus443-997-7777
Dorsey Center (Engineering for Professionals)410-516-2277
Howard County General Hospital410-740-7911
Montgomery County Campus301-294-7000
Washington Center
  • Carey Business School
  • Krieger School of Arts & Sciences
  • SAIS
Talk to Someone Now

Toll Free: 866-764-2317

In case of an emergency, call 911.