It is not uncommon for students to engage in some kind of suicidal thinking. As a result, you may find yourself in contact with a student who has expressed thoughts of this kind to you in some form or another. The student may be reaching out to you for help so it is important that you do not overlook these signs or comments.
Assessing suicide risk can be helpful as you determine the steps to take with a student you suspect might be suicidal. The following are significant risk factors for suicide:
- Marked changes in behavior such as increased talking about death or giving away possessions.
- Depression (though not all depressed people are suicidal) or sudden unexplained recovery from depression.
- Other mental health concerns such as eating disorders, substance abuse and severe anxiety.
- Family problems such as instability, abuse, parental mental illness and financial concerns.
- Personal problems such as academic failure or relationship problems.
- Social and emotional isolation, not having friends.
- Previous suicide attempts even in the remote past.
- A major loss or anniversary of a loss, especially if there has been multiple losses. Loss can refer death as well as loss of valued support systems, opportunities, status, etc.
- Previous exposure to suicide such as the loss of a close friend or family member to suicide.
- Pending disciplinary crisis
- Rape/Sexual Assault
- Sexual Orientation Crisis
- Other serious medical conditions
Often a suicidal person will give some hint of their suicidal thoughts, either overtly or covertly. Verbal clues that someone might be thinking about suicide include:
- “No one needs me anymore.”
- “Life has lost its meaning for me.”
- “I don’t see any way out.”
- “Everyone would be better off without me.”
- “I am going to kill myself.”
- “I wish I were dead.”
- “I can’t do it anymore.”
- “I just want to escape from everything.”
It is helpful to:
- Take the student seriously.
- Talk about suicide openly and directly.
- Try to sound calm and understanding.
- Be caring and know the available resources.
- Take charge and call or walk the student to Counseling Services.
- Contact Counseling Services if you have any concerns.
- After hours, call Campus Security at x1711
It is not helpful to:
- Sound shocked by what the person tells you.
- Emphasize the effects the suicide might have on family before you know that’s not what the student wishes to accomplish.
- Ignore covert suicidal comments.
- Engage in a debate on the moral aspects of suicide.
- Become too personally involved with the student.
- Handle things on your own.
- Agree to keep the student’s feelings a secret.