A Healing Hand: A Counselor’s Perspective on Addressing Suicidal Thoughts, Part I

There are situations in our lives and the lives of our companions that can lead us to very dark states of being. States of despair and tension. These states can grow so thick, so intense that they feel like a tangible place. Our favorite things lose their color and pizzazz. Everything is bleak and cold. Fear becomes our friend. Shame, a loyal cheerleader. Nothing inspires us anymore. Joy, once so heavy and ever surrounding us, now feels like an impossible fantasy.

This is just a glimmer of what we may feel like during a time of severe depression and anxiety. However, though these feelings are real and often all-consuming, they do not define who we are and there is hope for freedom from this state. UNT offers a variety of mental health services, programs, and resources for people who are or know someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts and/or tendencies. There is a whole village of people who deeply desire to provide help and support. You are not alone.

In order to spread awareness about suicide prevention, the Union partnered with the UNT Counseling and Testing Services on a two-part blog series entitled A Healing Hand. For this post, we interviewed Licensed Psychologist and the Associate Director of UNT Clinical Services and Training, Dr. Pam Flint. She provided an insightful perspective for those who are or have a loved one who is experiencing suicidal thoughts. This is the first part of the series. The second part can be found on the Counseling and Testing Services blog. Check out the interview with Dr. Flint below.

What are some of the warning signs of someone who is contemplating suicide?

“Some of the signs that indicate if someone might be thinking about suicide are; giving away prized possessions, trying to get their affairs in order, withdrawing from others, give subtle clues that they’re thinking about suicide, for instance saying things like, “it doesn’t really matter, because you won’t have to worry about me anymore.” Sometimes, depending on what they believe, there can be anger at God or there can be some sense of peace if they think that death will provide a peace of mind. Most of it has to do with depression because most of the suicides that we notice are related to depression. Signs that suggest clinical depression could be warning signs that someone is thinking about suicide. Those signs include; sadness, crying, withdrawal, concentration issues, sleep and eating issues, agitation, irritability. These things might suggest someone may be experiencing clinical depression. For college students, they may reach out on social media and post things that suggest they’re suffering, or they may drop off of it completely.”

What advice would you give to a person who is friends with someone who is contemplating suicide?

“Typically when you think about suicide, there is at least one problem, usually many problems, going on and the person does not know how to solve the problem, so they think of suicide as the solution. If the person contemplating is a UNT student, then I would suggest their friend call the Dean of Students and ask about their CARE Team referral. The Dean of Students office can actually ask someone to come in, talk to them, and find out what’s going on. Therapists cannot go out to talk to someone, because they have to come to us and consent to treatment. However, we can help make sure that the student is reached out to and offered assistance.  If it is life-threatening, then we can contact the police to get involved. If they are not a student, then they could call us and we can refer them to different options.”

What advice would you give to a person who is themselves considering suicide?

“I would suggest they seek treatment. If they are a student, then they can come to the counseling center. We always offer immediate crisis appointments which are for someone who is considering suicide. Keep in mind that often people who attempt and survive later regret it. There is a lot of research on people who have jumped off of bridges in an attempt to take their life but survived. Often they say ‘the minute I started to fall I realized that I wanted to live.’ So that makes us think that there must be people who have done the same thing and not survived. There are often people who will take an overdose and then call for help because they have time. There is just that ambivalence. Someone is trying to solve a problem or a multitude of problems, but they do not know how. They get overwhelmed, so suicide just seems to be the answer. But if they had someone walk with them and help them, then that could be very powerful and potentially save their lives.”

What resources does Counseling Services offer to students?

“We have two case managers who can work with the students to get long-term care and resources. For instance, if the issue is related to drug abuse or an eating disorder or financial problems, then the caseworkers can connect them to off-campus resources. We offer an online program called TAO which has modules on how to deal with depression and anxiety. We offer many types of groups. We have a crochet group which is available to anyone. We provide supplies and give instruction for first-timers. We have a harry potter group. There is a group for sexual assault survivors. There is a group for those who want to learn about the cognitive perspectives regarding trauma. We have an art therapy group which is very helpful if you are feeling depressed or anxious. That is some of them, but we have many others.”

What types of self-care methods would you recommend to someone who is struggling with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts?

“Don’t overload yourself. Make sure you take time for yourself. After a certain point, studying or working is ineffective if you do not take a break. Figure out what things relax you because they are different for everyone. Make sure you are around people. An introvert might only want to be around one or two people. Whereas, an extrovert might want to be around a lot of people. Wherever you are on that spectrum, just make sure to talk to someone. People cannot help you if they do not know that you are hurting.”

“In a way, we have kind of lost connection with each other. There are great things about social media, but there is also a missed connection for some people. Many people only post positive things. I can totally see a reason for that. There is nothing wrong with that, but a viewer might perceive someone’s life is perfect and view themselves as lesser than. We might have thoughts like; “Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I have this relationship or this job? Why can’t I be doing well in school?” I think it’s really easy to get depressed and overwhelmed if you are comparing yourself to other people’s social media posts, but that is not all of who they are. I’m not saying we should be posting a bunch of negative experiences, some people want to maintain boundaries, but it can skew our view of others. We should be careful about that and try to maintain healthy in-person connections.”

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, then here are some crisis lines you can call to speak to someone about what you or your friend are going through.

Denton County Crisis Hotline: 800-762-0157

Dallas Suicide and Crisis Center: 214-828-1000

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

  • Press 1 if a veteran
  • Dial 888-628-9454 for Spanish

You can also text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US anytime for any crisis

If your loved one indicates that they are suicidal, the next step is to get help. There are professionals at UNT that are willing to help you and the person you are worried about. Even if you do not feel comfortable asking your friend if they are suicidal, but you are concerned about their safety, you can reach out to them.

Counseling & Testing: http://studentaffairs.unt.edu/counseling-and-testing-services

Psychology Clinic: https://psychology.unt.edu/clinics-and-centers/psychology-clinic

UNT Well: https://untwell.unt.edu/home

Child & Family Resource Clinic: https://www.coe.unt.edu/child-and-family-resource-clinic

Counseling and Human Development Center: https://www.coe.unt.edu/counseling-and-human-development-center

CARE Team: http://studentaffairs.unt.edu/care

If you would like to be formally trained to respond to a mental health crisis, check out the Mental Health First Aid training or look into QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer).

QPR training is offered on campus monthly, every 2nd Monday from 2-3:30 PM.


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