By Grace Rodriguez
East Los Angeles College alumn, Vanessa Bermudez shared a presentation titled “Suicide Prevention, Know the SIGNS!” on March 30.
Here, she outlined warning signs and variables that make an individual more prone to resort to suicide and suicidal ideation.
Bermudez is a Behavioral Health Therapist and ELAC Liaison. She has been doing clinical work since 2018 and graduated a year ago with her Master’s Degree in Social Work.
As a first-generation college student, Bermudez understands the struggles of navigating higher education and so she believes in making it her responsibility to ensure students are well connected.
She shared the many resources covered by the students health center fee, including STI Testing, Laboratory Services, Vaccines and Contraceptive Supplies.
All of the services are provided by Via Care and appointments are easily arranged by telephone at (323) 268-9191 or through the Healow app.
Additional resources in the form of support groups through Instagram include the Men’s Healing Group, the Women’s Support Group, the 12-Step Support Group and the LGBTQ+ Support Group.
The resources provided by the health center and the listed support groups can aid students with any mental health related questions.
Bermudez began with a trigger warning and quickly jumped into defining suicide, as the act of taking one’s life.
She talked about the fact that suicide is still a taboo subject and that changing this and openly discussing the subject can help bring awareness and ultimately protect those at risk of suicide.
The presentation discusses the various myths that accompany the topic and sets out to bust them. It is wrongly assumed that most people who die by suicide don’t make future plans.
However Bermudez said, “the suicidal mind is characterized by ambivalence.” Hence, why it should never be assumed someone is okay just because they make plans for the future.
Furthermore, another assumption made about suicide is that a person who talks about it will not follow through, yet the graphics she presented state that “8 out of 10 people who commit suicide have spoken about their intent before killing themselves.”
Bermudez said there are many health conditions that put people at greater risk of suicide including but not limited to: depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and traumatic brain injury.
Another set of risk factors present themselves as environmental. For example, people who have more access to firearms and drugs; people who face prolonged stress; people who go through stressful life events or people who are exposed to other suicides are at a greater risk of suicide themselves.
She said that video games can actually be a source that can normalize or expose individuals to violence and suicide as well.
The final risk factor discussed was historical. This category includes previous suicide attempts, family history of suicide, childhood abuse, childhood neglect or childhood trauma.
The biggest sign to look out for is a change in behavior following a painful event.
An example Bermudez gave of this was a patient she had who never groomed herself, but one day came in with her hair and makeup done. She noticed some of the signs, and after some deliberation managed to help her open up.
The following three lists depict warning signs of suicide sorted into three categories: verbal, behavioral and mood— courtesy of Vanessa Bermudez’s presentation.
Verbal warning signs of suicide include talking about suicide (whether it be in the form of humor or not), feelings of hopelessness, having no reason to live, being a burden to others (most prominent in older individuals), feeling trapped , and unbearable pain
Behavioral warning signs of suicide include increased drug abuse, online searches of methods of suicide, withdrawing from activities, isolating from family and friends, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, giving away prized possessions, aggression, and fatigue
Mood warning signs include depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation/shame, agitation/anger, and relief/sudden improvement.
If you know someone that might be exhibiting some of these signs following a painful event, the best thing to do is to reach out and be straight forward. Ask them if they are considering suicide.
Bermudez said to those wanting to help that awkwardness is temporary, but a life lost is permanent.
She says that while we do not want to play therapist, listening and providing a space to share can mean a world of a difference.
Expressing concerns and worries can help individuals realize they are not alone.
Most importantly, talk to a trusted adult about your concerns and point the individual to resources that can help.
The student health center is open Monday- Friday 8am- 5pm.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255 or Text HOME to 741741.