Helping a Student in Your Office
If you are worried that a student may be considering suicide, assess if you have seen any behaviors that cause concern for violence, the student's well-being, or that are significantly disruptive to the campus environment. Also use direct questioning to ask whether the person is considering killing him or herself e.g., “Are you thinking about killing yourself?," "Do you have any plans to commit suicide?"
These are difficult questions to ask, but many research studies have shown that asking them do not increase the risk of suicide. For people who are considering suicide, these questions will not furnish them with new ideas. Most people who are actively suicidal are more than willing to discuss their plan. Conversely, many people consider suicide from time to time in passing. The less specific and lethal the plan (e.g. “I guess I’d take a couple sleeping pills sometime”), the less likely a suicide attempt. If someone is at immediate risk, do not leave the person alone. Remove all possible dangerous items from his or her presence.
Never agree to keep another person’s serious suicidal or homicidal thoughts a secret. Actively help the person to seek help.
- If you are concerned about a student's suicide or homicide potential, The Counseling Center is available for consultation. If the student is with you, he/she might be agreeable to speaking to the Counselor directly on the phone.
- You may determine, in consultation with the Counseling Center, that it is in the student's best interest to go to the nearest Emergency Room instead of to the Counseling Center. Involving a family member or close friend as early as possible in the process can help ensure a less stressful experience for the student by providing emotional support. They can sometimes even serve as an escort.
- Voluntary: If the student agrees voluntarily, you may determine it is in the student's best interest to go to the nearest Emergency Room. it is recommended that one of the escorts, family members or friends stay with the student until he/she is admitted to a unit.
- Involuntary: If the student needs hospitalization on an involuntary basis, call the campus police (711), and they will escort the student to nearest Emergency Room.
Helping a Student Elsewhere on Campus or off-Campus
Should you find yourself on the phone talking to a student who you suspect may be considering suicide, there are some important steps you can take to assess the immediacy of the situation. You can directly ask if he of she is thinking about killing him or herself. Professionals assess suicide potential, in part by asking:
- What the plan for suicide is – exactly how will they do it? Do they have access to a means such as pills or a weapon?
- When and where they intend to carry out the plan?
- If they’ve ever attempted suicide before. If yes, how and when.
Other Useful Interventions:
- Consult with UM Counseling Center at 410-328-8404 during working hours
- Ask to speak to anyone else who may be present with that person, or call student’s emergency contact
- Call 711 (on campus) or 911 (off campus)
- Refer them to a local emergency room
- Consult with relevant emergency hotlines in student’s current location
For Further Assistance:
Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., call the UM Student Counseling Center at 410-328-8404.
After 5 p.m., weekends or holidays, call Student Health at 410-328-8792. Calls are received by Family Medicine attending physicians who will advise and triage. Additionally refer to Urgent Care Contacts.
[Portions adapted from George Mason University Counseling and Psychological Services]