We need to talk

February 21, 2017



Donna Thomas
Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Department Chair


We need to talk.


Those four words typically signal a serious conversation. Indeed, this conversation is difficult. I want to talk about something that most people don’t want to discuss — suicide. Talking about suicide is awkward. It’s unnatural. But we need to be willing to talk about suicide because remaining silent might mean losing someone we love.


According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, a person in Louisiana commits suicide approximately every 13 hours. It is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15-34. If talking about suicide can lower the statistics, let’s talk.


People who are depressed, anxious or use substances in a problematic way are at risk for suicide, especially when their problems are not addressed. People who experience stressful or traumatic events, or those who endure prolonged stress such as bullying harassment, or serious relationship problems, are at increased risk of suicide. Diagnosis and treatment of mental health problems are critical steps to prevent suicide, but you don’t have to be a mental health professional to make a difference.


So, how can you tell if someone is at risk? Potential warning signs are changes in the way a person talks, behaves or feels. Individuals at risk for suicide often speak as if there is little or no hope for the future. They may begin to isolate themselves from others, increase their substance use or behave irresponsibly. They may be increasingly sad, anxious, irritable or angry.


You can help an at-risk friend or loved one by asking simple questions: “Are you OK?” “Can I help?” “Is something bothering you?” You can help by listening, and letting them know you care and that they are important to you. You can make a difference by offering to stay with a person so he or she won’t be alone or to accompany someone when he or she needs to seek help. You might save a life by letting an at-risk person’s loved ones know that you are concerned for that person’s wellbeing.


If you’re worried that someone you care about may be at-risk for suicide, you are in a position to help by talking to that person, or to someone else who cares for the individual.


If you know someone who may be at-risk and need some guidance or if you are a person contemplating suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or, on campus, contact Counseling Services at 318-257-2488. The Counseling Services is located in Keeny Hall, Room 310.


We need to talk.


Dr. Donna Thomas is the department chair over psychology and behavioral sciences and the George and Jean Baldwin Endowed Associate Professor. She also serves as the university’s NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative.


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