Assessing Suicide Threats and Attempts

Suicide Prevention Program

The Suicide Prevention Program on campus is a joint undertaking of the Counseling Center and McKinley Health Center. The program began in 1984, with the aim of reducing the risk of suicide in the University of Illinois student community. Any individual (friend, relative, faculty, residence hall staff) can notify the Suicide Prevention Team if a student they know makes a suicidal threat or gesture. This report paves the way for the referred student to enter a system of professional help, by requiring them to complete four sessions of assessment with a mental health professional. The student’s safety is the main concern for those involved with the program. Every effort is made to respect and protect the student’s confidentiality, provided that their safety is maintained. To contact the Suicide Prevention Program, call the Counseling Center at 217-333-3704 or McKinley Mental Health at 217-333-2705 and ask for a member of the Suicide Prevention Team.

Suicide Policy

Mandated assessment following suicide threats and attempts

The University of Illinois expects and encourages students to maintain a reasonable concern for their own self-welfare. One of the times the University formally requires that such a concern be maintained is in the area of suicide.

In the event that the university is presented with a credible report that a student has threatened or attempted suicide, engaged in efforts to prepare to commit suicide or expressed a preoccupation with suicide, that student will be required to attend four sessions of professional assessment. The purpose of this assessment is to provide the student with resources to adhere to this standard in the future and to monitor the student’s willingness and ability to adhere to this standard.

A. Procedures

When the Suicide Prevention Team is in receipt of a credible report that a student has threatened or attempted suicide, engaged in efforts to prepare to commit suicide or expressed a preoccupation with suicide, the student will be required to attend four one hour sessions of professional assessment with a licensed mental health professional who agrees to participate in the program’s requirement of a comprehensive and in-depth assessment of the precipitating incident, prior attempts and threats, and current suicidal intent. In addition, the professional must be willing and available to engage in counseling and/or therapy, if the student so consents.

The first assessment will occur within a week of the incident or release from the hospital.

The remaining assessments will ideally occur at weekly intervals.

Students are required to participate only in an assessment of their past and current suicidality. Students are not required to engage in counseling or therapy. A student may elect to go beyond the required assessment and participate in counseling or therapy, only after the professional secures the student’s permission through verbal consent.

Students can obtain the assessments with a private practitioner with comparable credentials at his or her own expense and after signing an authorization allowing that practitioner to communicate with members of the Suicide Prevention Team. All professionals will make the incident, its roots and implications a significant focus of each of the four assessments.

Students seeking to obtain the four assessment appointments with a private practitioner must sign a release allowing the practitioner to make contact with a member of the Suicide Prevention Team. As was the case with university professionals, before meeting with the student, the private practitioner must be provided with independent sources of information regarding the suicidal incident, if such reports exist. These include suicide notes, police reports, emergency room reports and eye witness accounts.

Private practitioners will be required, during the period in which the four session assessment occurs, to provide the university with reports of instances in which the student threatened or attempted suicide, engaged in efforts to prepare to commit suicide or expressed a preoccupation with suicide.

The Chair of the Suicide Prevention Team will advise the Dean of Students in the event that a student does not comply with the policy.

Failure to adhere to this standard of self-welfare or failure to fulfill the requirements of the assessment following a suicidal incident may result in disciplinary action, academic encumbrance, suspension and/or withdrawal. The appropriate actions associated with this policy will be determined by the Dean of Students.

The Dean of Students may take other steps, including contacting the student’s parents and/or other significant others in the event of a particularly potentially lethal suicide attempt or in the event of repeated suicide attempts.

B. Confidentiality

All records associated with the reported incident are kept separately by the Suicide Prevention Team and do not appear as part of the student’s academic record.

All records associated with the mandated assessment are protected by state laws regarding confidentiality.

C. Appeals

A student may appeal the accuracy of the report to the Suicide Prevention Team. In some instances, in order for the appeal to go forward, a student will be required to sign a release of information authorizing the members of the Suicide Prevention Team to contact and interview witnesses to the incident.

The policy of four sessions of professional assessment is applied uniformly to all students who cross the threshold described above. The requirement of four professional assessments is not subject to appeal.

If a student disagrees with other aspects of the program, such as whether the events in question cross the threshold of what constitutes a suicide threat or attempt or whether the professional he or she has retained meets the requirements of the program, he or she can appeal the Suicide Prevention Team’s decision to the Dean of Students or designee. The Dean of Students decision is final.