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Counseling Services

The Suicidal Student

 

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. It is important to take all suicidal comments or behavior seriously and respond appropriately. Overall high risk indicators include: feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and futility; a significant loss or threat of loss; a suicide plan; a history of a previous attempt or knowledge of someone who has attempted suicide; history of alcohol or drug abuse; feelings of alienation and isolation; and preoccupation with death. Suicidal behavior can be classified as either imminent or ambiguous. In the case of imminent threat (i.e. student tells you he or she has taken pills) stay calm, get the student’s name, location, what s/he has taken and call 911. In the case of an ambiguous situation, inform your supervisor or department chair and contact CS for a consultation. In addition:

DO DON'T
  • Take the student seriously — 80% of individuals who attempt suicide give warning of their intent
  • Be direct — ask if the student is suicidal, if s/he has a plan and if s/he has the means to carry out that plan. This exploration may actually decrease the impulse to commit suicide.
  • Be available to listen but refer the student to Counseling Services for additional help. Do your best to make sure the student actually gets help.
  • Take care of yourself, know your limitations. Allow yourself to receive support from those close to you or those trained to provide it. Responding to suicidal students is emotionally draining.
  • Minimize the situation.
  • Leave the student alone if s/he has a plan.
  • Be afraid of planting the idea of suicide in an already depressed mind by inquiring about it (the person will very likely feel relieved that someone has noticed and cared enough to discuss it with him/her).
  • Over commit yourself. Doing so may leave you eventually feeling overwhelmed or unable to deliver on what you promised.

 

Counseling Services, Kansas State University – adapted from information by UC-Davis Counseling and Psychological Services