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What can I do if I suspect a student or classmate is suicidal?

Here is what to do when you suspect a student is suicidal:

  • Develop a relationship with them or strengthen your current relationship by being available to listen and talk. Show and say that you care about them.
  • Ask directly about suicide. You will not be "putting thoughts into the person's head" or causing them distress — in fact, it's the best thing you can do. Don't act shocked or scared and don't argue about morality of suicide.
  • Ask the following questions to assess their seriousness:
    • Are you thinking about hurting yourself or committing suicide?
    • When would you do it?
    • What would you do?
    • What method(s) would you use?
    • How available is this method to you?
    • Who can you turn to for help?
    • When are your family members home?
  • If you've determined that the situation is serious enough that they have a plan and means to execute the plan, do not leave the student alone unless you yourself are physically threatened.
  • Call your college suicide hotline, security department or 911.
  • Encourage the student to seek professional guidance. If they refuse help, contact someone in authority immediately — an angry friend is better than a dead one. Maintain contact with the student until help is secured.
"Almost half of all college students report being depressed at some time, and as many as 10 percent of all college students consider suicide in a given year. It is vitally important that young people, whether in college or not, understand that mental illness, including thoughts of suicide, is not something to be ashamed of and will not be penalized. Confidential treatment is available," says Dr. Posner. "Most people who have mental illness or depression are grossly undertreated and suffering silently. The most helpful thing one can do, which truly can be lifesaving, is to facilitate treatment."

Richard Walsh
Social Work
Most important is to talk to the person and inquire about how they are feeling and offer them your support as a friend. There are misconceptions that talking to someone about suicide increases the chance they will act upon it, but this is untrue. Obviously, just wondering about what to do shows that you do care about this person, so let them know. You may want to suggest they see a mental health professional or a clergy member. You could also suggest they call a local suicide/crisis hotline or the National Suicide Prevention Line 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-7842433)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.