Counselors Discuss Motives for Suicide and How to Help


Credit to Aly Doty

By Claire Boenitz, North Star Staffer

Suicide is an issue that devastates, shocks and perplexes. Many people wonder what drives a person to do such a thing to both themselves and the people around them. Bullying, mental illness, loss, substance abuse, family situations and exposure to suicide – whether through the Internet or direct experience with losing someone – can all contribute to contemplation of suicide.

“A lot of times it starts with feelings of ‘I don’t want to be here anymore, I don’t want to deal with this,’” licensed professional counselor Emily Kircher-Morris said. “Then it goes toward more concrete thoughts, like thinking ‘maybe I should kill myself.’ Beyond that, people make plans, and then the last step would be an attempt. It’s cyclical, generally, and tends to vary. People may be triggered, or they may just start feeling worse.”

In 2013, the most recent year from which data is available, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in America, with one in every 25 recorded attempts being lethal, according to Medical News Today. It tends to be most prevalent in teenagers and young adults, which can be attributed to lack of coping mechanisms that develop with age and difficulty seeing long-term effects, according to Kircher-Morris. Spectra and physical science teacher Jon Travis has dealt with a number of students with suicidal thoughts in his years of teaching.

“Kids are expected to be adults,” Travis said. “They’re having to cope with all of these pressures without having the tools available to deal with them. Sometimes, though, I wonder if kids wonder if it’s temporary, and whether they really realize the finality of death.”

In helping those with suicidal thoughts, listening to them and believing what they say is crucial, according to Kircher-Morris. Suicidal people do not always act sad or hopeless, but rather drop hints, such as not thinking long-term and joking about dying or the act of suicide. Recognizing warning signs and spreading awareness are key to helping fight suicide’s prevalence.

“Everyone is qualified to help somebody,” FHN educational support counselor Barry Morrison said. “Even just by listening or saying ‘let’s get you help.’ That is the most important thing, when I work with people, is that you do not have to have an advanced degree to help people. It’s just taking it seriously when someone feels that way or offers those thoughts and getting them help the best you know how to.”