What Students Should Know About Depression and the Prevention of Suicide and Violence

What You Should Know

At Iona, our hope is that all of our students will have a positive and productive experience during the college years. However, among 17 to 24 year olds, depression is fairly common and therefore, there is a good chance that this is a problem that you might encounter. We recognize that coping with your own depression, or with a friend who is depressed, can be difficult and challenging. Even more difficult is dealing with yourself or with friends when thoughts of self-harm are involved. Similarly, having thoughts about harming other people or having a friend express these thoughts to you is also very disturbing. You should know that with time and with assistance, depression does lift,

and often thoughts about harming others do pass. The most important thing that you can do is to get yourself or your friend the level of help that is needed to get better.


In this brochure, we offer specific suggestions about how to help a friend or yourself to cope with depression and/or thoughts of harming others. We have included the warning signs for depression, for suicide, and for potential harm to others in order to help you recognize when someone really needs professional assistance.


What to do if You Are Depressed

Be honest about your feelings; don't minimize or deny them.

Don't let others deny or minimize your feelings. Only you really know how bad you're feeling.

Recognize when talking to a friend is not enough. If your sad mood persists for more than two weeks and/or if you are getting out of your usual routine (for example, cutting classes, not seeing friends, not working out, not getting out of bed), it might be time to get professional help.

Understand that getting professional help does make a difference. There are many professional approaches to treating depression. One of them will certainly work for you.

Get professional help through the Counseling Center or through another professional agency. The

Counseling Center will make a referral if you wish to be seen off campus.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, let a responsible person (R.A., R.D., parent, counselor, professor) know immediately.


Know the Common Symptoms of Depression

Sad mood

Feelings of hopelessness

Irritability and restlessness

Little interest or pleasure in usual activities

Not following usual routine

Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning

Loss of appetite, weight loss

Low energy, constant fatigue

Poor concentration

Difficulty making decisions

Thoughts of death and suicide

Feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem

Not being able to get over a break-up of a relationship

Not caring about anything

Social isolation


Know the Risk Factors For Suicide

Direct expression of wanting to commit suicide

"Hints" about suicide intent


Social withdrawal and isolation

Someone significant has committed suicide

Putting affairs in order

Giving things away

Preoccupation with death

Rejection of help

Alcohol/drug abuse

Impulsive behavior


How to Help a Friend Who is Depressed

Be a good listener; don't minimize or deny the feelings your friend is expressing; let him/her talk freely.

Be non-judgmental; don't suggest that your friend shouldn't feel this way.

Don't offer easy solutions; telling your friend to just get over it, or that they need to stop thinking about it, doesn't help. If they could just get over it, they would.

Suggest other sources of help to your friend - a Resident Assistant, a counselor, a supportive family member.

Understand the difference between professional and non-professional help. When someone is blue or having a bad day, talking to a friend is probably all he/she needs. But when someone is truly depressed and has been for a while (two weeks or more) he/she probably needs to speak to a professional person who has been trained to help people who are clinically depressed.

Know your limits; if you feel overwhelmed or that the things that your friend is telling you are very serious, acknowledge that to your friend. Work with him/her to get the professional help he/she needs, which is often the best way to take care of your friend.


Violence on the College Campus

In spite of the tragic events at Virginia Tech in April, 2007, students taking the lives of other students on the campus remains a relatively rare occurrence. Nevertheless, it is clear that all members of the campus community must be alert to keeping our campus as safe as possible. Therefore, all threats against others should be taken seriously as should be the warning signs that might indicate a student's potential to harm others. Therefore, we ask you to

please review the Risk Factors for Danger to Others that are listed below.


Know the Risk Factors for Danger to Others

Direct expression of intent to harm another person.

"Hints" about wanting to harm other people.

A history of prior violence.

A history of extreme social isolation and poor peer relationships.

Behaviors that are frequently disturbing to peers and others in the environment (eg. stalking, making odd or inappropriate comments).

A preoccupation with violence.

Difficulty controlling anger or frustration.

Access to firearms.

Odd or disturbing behavior is getting worse.


How to Help a Friend Who May be Suicidal or Who May Pose A Danger to Others

If you believe your friend is suicidal or might pose a danger to others, please do the following:

Tell him or her directly that you are worried about them.

If your friend tells you they have tried to or plan to harm himself/herself or someone else, get professional help immediately - a Resident Assistant, the Counseling Center, the hospital emergency room, the police department.

Do not agree to keep your friend's suicidal or violent intentions a secret. These are secrets you must not keep. You must inform an appropriate person (parent, counselor, R.A., R.D., police department) and get help.

• Stay with your friend until professional help comes.