Did Brian Archie Jr. send out distress signals before taking his own life? Studies related to suicide victims suggest he probably did. Dr. Steven L. Dubovsky, professor and chair of UB’s School of Psychiatry, said it’s common for people contemplating suicide to drop hints, although sometimes in such subtle fashion their intent becomes difficult to discern.

“The majority of people who commit suicide communicate the intention to commit suicide in the 30 days prior to dying,” Dr. Dubovsky said. “It might not be direct. They might not say, ‘I’m going to kill myself.’ But it is extremely common to leave clues and hope that someone will pick them up. The folklore that people who really do commit suicide don’t talk about it and people who talk about it don’t really do it is completely untrue.

“You still might not have caught it. It might have been very subtle. In retrospect, you might notice, yeah, that was a clue, but you still might not have picked it up not knowing because a lot of people leave these clues that don’t do anything. But the fact is that the majority of people that commit suicide will in some manner communicate that intention.”

The suicide rate for college students is 7.5 per 100,000, which is less than the adult rate of 12-12.5 per 100,000 and greater than the adolescent rate of 2-3. But rates are on the rise, Dr. Dubovsky said, with depression likely being the primary cause. Archie was undergoing counseling for depression.

“The rate of suicide has been increasing in recent years and in part this may well be related to the rate of depression increasing,” he said. “In fact, the incidents, the number of new cases of depression, has been increasing in every generation since World War II. And it continues to increase. This is probably not a function of better diagnosis, it’s a true increase in the rate. And also depression is appearing for the first time at younger ages in each new generation.”

If someone expresses suicidal thoughts, Dr. Dubovsky said it’s best to contact a psychiatrist or other mental health care professional. If that’s not possible it’s safe to open a dialogue with the person about their situation.

“If there’s nobody to advise you I would still sit down with that person and just say, ‘I’m concerned about what you said. This worries me. What’s going on?’ Talking about suicide does not put the idea into people’s heads. If the idea’s in someone’s head it’s there. If it’s not there, you’re not going to make somebody suicidal by asking them about it.

“People are often relieved when you say, ‘It sounds to me like you’re thinking about killing yourself. What’s going on here?

“If you’re shy and you don’t want to be direct just say, ‘You seem to be feeling really bad. And if they say, ‘Yeah, I am feeling bad, ask ‘How bad do you feel?’ And if they say, ‘Sometimes I feel pretty bad, say ‘Do you ever feel bad enough that you wish you weren’t alive?’ And if they say yes, say, ‘Did you ever think about killing yourself?’ If they say yes, that person needs help right then and there.”