Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. A suicidal
person may not ask for help, but that doesn’t mean that help isn’t wanted. Suicide
may result from distorted rational thinking and decision-making, not from a lack
of character or moral weakness. Suicidal persons tend to give clues to those around
them. Approximately eighty percent of people who have attempted suicide discussed
their intent to do so with someone around them. The initiation of a suicidal event
is likely to be triggered by a major life stress such as a loss or threat of loss
(e.g., death of family/friend, end of a significant relationship, being academically
dismissed from school). Some of the high risk indicators of suicidal intent are
suicidal thoughts; a negative perception of life; intense feelings of hopelessness
and futility, particularly if accompanied by anxiety; feelings of alienation and
isolation; the idea that death is an agent for the cessation of distress; a personal
and/or family history of depression; a personal and/or family history of previous
attempts; a history of substance abuse; and/or a history of self-damaging acts.
The suicidal student who alerts someone is often intensely ambivalent about killing
him/herself and usually is open to discussing his or her suicidal concerns with
someone. Students who talk about or write a lot about death and dying, have a specific
plan for killing themselves; have a means (such as medication, knives, or a gun);
abuse alcohol and other substances; and tend to be socially isolated are considered
at greater risk to make a lethal suicide attempt.
Imminent danger signs include highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression);
inability to communicate clearly (disjointed thoughts, slurred speech; loss of contact
with reality (seeing/hearing things that are not there, beliefs or actions at odds
with reality); overt suicidal thoughts and gestures (suicide is a current option);
homicidal threats. In such cases, call 9-911 from campus and inform Counseling Services
or Student Health, and then a supervisor or department head.
When you suspect a student is suicidal:
- 1. When possible, see the student in private.
- . Remain calm and in control of the
- Be direct—ask if the student is suicidal, if she/he has a plan and
if she/he has the means to carry out this plan. This exploration may actually decrease
the impulse to commit suicide (at least temporarily as it relieves the pressure).
- Take the student seriously and acknowledge that the threat is a serious plea
- Listen to the student and respond with concern and care.
the student that you will help him/her reach a psychologist or psychiatrist.
When possible, accompany the student to Counseling Services (Building 599) or Student
Health (Building 588). The student can be seen immediately by a psychologist at
Counseling Services during working hours (M-F 8:30 -4:30). If you feel uncomfortable
with the student, or if you are unable to accompany the student to one of these
services, please contact Counseling Services (893-4411) for consultation and guidance,
or Student Health Administration (893-2251).
- If the student is in immediate danger,
call 911 or 9-911 from campus phones.
- If it is after hours and the student is
not in immediate danger, encourage the student to talk with a licensed counselor
by phone (893-4411).
- Seek consultation even if the student is not willing to
go to counseling. Call Counseling Services (893-4411) or the coordinator of student
mental health services (893-8920).
- Minimize the situation or sound shocked by what they tell you. All threats need
to be handled as potentially lethal.
- Argue with the student about the merits
of living or moral aspects of suicide.
- Be afraid to ask the student about his/her
intent and/or plans of suicide.
- Agree to be bound by confidentiality.
commit yourself and not be able to deliver what you promised.
- Allow the student’s
friends to take care of the student without getting a professional opinion.