Peer Education

The Blues Project -
A Campus Peer Education Volunteer Program

Overcoming Depression and Preventing Suicide

Suicide: It Doesn't Have to Happen

Before you finish reading this page, someone in the United States will try to kill themselves. One person every 17 minutes takes their own life. More than 30,000 persons in the United States killed themselves last year, and nine times that many attempted suicide. Many of those who attempted will try again. A large number will be successful on a subsequent attempt. Here's the irony- except for a very few, all of the people who commit suicide want desperately to live.

Suicidal thoughts occur when a feeling of hopelessness sets in that one is alone and that pressures and problems are more than one can bear and will never go away. The reality that people who commit suicide are unable to see is that the pain does go away and the quality of one's life does improve, with time.

The Suicidal Person

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Sometimes a suicidal individual may express the idea of "being a burden", of "being better off dead", or of "wanting to get away from it all". Suicidal persons usually want to communicate their feelings; any opportunity to do so should be encouraged.

Suicidal persons are intensely ambivilent about killing themselves and typically respond to help. Suicidal states are time limited and most who commit suicide are not "crazy". High risk indicators include: feelings of hopelessness and futility; a significant loss or threat of loss; a previous attempt; history of alcohol or drug abuse, and the feelings of alienation and isolation.

Warning Signs for Depression or Suicidal Behavior

  1. Have you noticed significant changes in the individual's behavior patterns?
    • Sleeping
    • Eating
    • Studying
    • Use of alcohol or drugs
    • Time spent with others
    • Weight gain or loss
    • Other changes
  2. Have you noticed significant changes in the person's affect (emotion)?
    • Hyperactive, excited
    • Withdrawn, depressive
    • Mood swings
    • Other changes
  3. Is the individual abusing drugs or alcohol?
  4. What is the quality of social relationships for this person?
    • Lack of close, supportive friends
    • Spends little time with others
    • Non-supportive family ties
    • Rarely participates in group activities
  5. Have there been any recent traumatic or stressful events in this individual's life?
    • Death of a loved one
    • Changes in close relationships (break-up of a love affair, separation, divorce)
  6. Has the person hinted at suicide or the desire to die or talked about hopelessness? (Eighty percent of suicide victims communicate their intent to soimeone else.)
  7. Has a close friend or family member of this individual committed suicide?
  8. Has the person attempted suicide before?
  9. Does this individual engage in physically dangerous activities?
  10. Does this person have a specific and detailed suicide plan and the means for implementation?

Be Concerned if a Person Exhibits Several of these Warning Signs!

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What You Can Do to Help


  • Remain calm.
  • Take the person seriously.
  • Encourage frank and open discussion.
  • Listen without moralizing or judging.
  • Listen actively and acknowledge feelings.
  • Acknowledge that a suicide threat or attempt is a plea for help.


  • Minimize the situation or depth of feeling (e.g., don't say, "Oh, it will be much better tomorrow".)
  • Be afraid to ask the person if they are so depressed or sad that they want to hurt themselves (e.g. do say, "You seem so upset and discouraged that I'm wondering if you are considering suicide".)
  • Overcommit yourself and, therefore, not able to deliver on what you promise.
  • Ignore your limitations.
  • Feel obliged to find simple solutions.

Refer the Person to Counseling If:

  • The person has identifiable personal problems and using one or more ineffective strategies.
  • The person is exhibiting several of the distress warning signs.
  • The problem the person shares with you does not appear to be alleviated by your support.
  • The problem has existed for an extended period of time and the person's attempts to solve it have been unsuccessful.

When You Refer:

  • Remind the person that counseling is confidential and that it can often help.
  • Remind the person that recognizing a problem and reaching out for help is a strength, not a weakness.
  • Call the referral agency yourself to get the name of a specific counselor for the person to call.
  • Stay with the person to provide support when they make the contact with the agency.

And Remember:

  • Take care of yourself. Helping someone who is suicidal is demanding, draining work. Seek support of friends or professional resources.

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Campus Resources

University Counseling Services

818.677.7834 TDD

Student Health Center


Public Safety (University Police)


CSUN HelpLine

(7 PM to 10 PM daily)

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Off-Campus Resources

Northridge Hospital Emergency Services

18300 Roscoe Blvd.
Northridge, CA 91328
(818) 885-5396

Olive View Emergency Services

14445 Olive View Drive
Sylmar, CA 91342
(818) 364-4340

Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center

24-Hour Crisis Hotline
(800) 784-2433

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

National 24-Hour Hotline
(800) 273-TALK

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The Blues Project is sponsored by:

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The Blues Project

If you're interested in becoming a Blues Project Peer Educator, submit a
Blues Project application.