By Paige Asberry
Staff writer

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it’s the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2021, there were an estimated 1.7 million suicide attempts in the United States. 

This is something in society that needs to be addressed, and a more active role needs to be taken in checking up on friends and loved ones. But how does a person know what to look for? What are some of the warning signs that a loved one may be headed down the rabbit hole? 

Writing Paraprofessional at Rimmer Learning Center Jessica Owens was previously employed at a girl’s academy for troubled young women, and through her time there, she learned how to identify certain signs. 

“One of the most telling signs is a shift in how they present themselves,” she said. “Going from being well dressed, with neatly combed hair, to repeatedly showing up in pajamas and bed head … that can be your first warning that everything might not be OK.”

Another worrying sign is isolation, or seclusion. Missing classes, struggling to get out of bed, sudden disinterest in any sort of extracurricular activity – these can all be warning signs.

These are also symptoms of depression, and while struggling with depression doesn’t necessarily equal suicidal, one can lead to the other. 

Noticing these things in someone does no good unless the next step is to address it with them. This is such a delicate topic that before it’s even a conversation, there needs to be a relationship. An attack from someone they barely know isn’t going to do anything but cause the person to feel worse.

Another thing that can be done is to use the right encouraging words. “Oh, but you have so much to live for” is an example of the wrong words. Placing guilt on the person for feeling the way they do isn’t a helpful statement, and can cause anger and further isolation. Instead, suggesting “Are there things in a day that you can look forward to?” provides focused activity and creates a space to look for the good in life.  

“Be aware. Even if they aren’t obvious, there will be noticeable changes in friends, and those are things that you can talk to them about,” said Huchinson Community College Coordinator of Counseling and Social Work Services Debbie Graber.

“No one person is responsible for anyone else. We can check in and talk to our loved ones, but ultimately all we can be is a friend.”

A final important tidbit is to not treat friends differently. Do not treat them as weak, or breakable, or like they need constant supervision. 

“Be aware, be approachable, and be supportive,” Graber said.

Resources for help in Reno County for HutchCC students include free counseling services in the Parker Student Union, Horizons Mental Health Center, and 988 crisis line, where callers are connected to licensed therapists 24/7.

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