Why should I be concerned about the issue of suicide?
Suicide is rarely an impulsive decision, and in the days and hours before someone acts on this idea, it is very likely that they may offer clues to close friends, roommates, colleagues, classmates, teachers, etc. Therefore, your awareness about suicide may save a life.
How will I know if my friend is at risk for suicide?
People who feel suicidal usually communicate this to others through words or actions. They may talk about their intention to die; they may threaten to commit suicide; they may make an attempt to kill themselves. Whether or not the reasons they give for their words and actions make sense to you, do not dismiss such indications lightly. Some signs to look for are listed below.
- I feel like killing myself.
- I don’t know how much longer I can take this.
- I’ve been saving up my pills in case things get really bad.
- Lately I’ve been driving my car like I really don’t care what happens.
- I can’t go on.
- Nothing matters any more.
- I’m thinking of ending it all.
- Making slight cuts to the wrist.
- Buying sleeping pills.
- Behaving recklessly.
- Writing stories/articles/letters/e-mails focused on their own death.
- Getting affairs in order and giving away valued possessions.
Take all statements and actions seriously. These indications are cause for concern under any circumstances, and especially so if they happen close to a significant change or loss in someone’s life (e.g. death of a loved one, relationship breakup, failing academic performance, impending exams/exam results, problems at work, impending legal action).
What can I do to help?
Listen. Listen with compassion, calm, and acceptance – without rejecting, analyzing, comparing, categorizing, criticizing, or giving advice. The need is to understand things from the person’s perspective, not your own.
Remain patient. Your friend may not be immediately comfortable with, or welcoming of your concern. Stay supportive and focused on how much you care about this person. Express your concern, without expecting your friend change how they feel.
Don’t bargain or keep secrets. Don’t let the person convince you that it is not serious or that they can handle it on their own. Don’t bargain with someone who is suicidal – people who have made suicidal threats or attempts can often be very effective at persuading their friends to keep silent about what they have done.
Make sure you have enough support for yourself. You don’t have deal with such a situation on your own. If you are concerned about someone, you can call the Counseling Center and consult with a professional about how to proceed. It is also possible that as an individual you may have limited power to help someone who is suicidal. You can turn to the Suicide Prevention Program on campus for further assistance.
In the case of emergency or when suicide is imminent, contact the Police Department by calling 911 or during the office hour contact Suicide Prevention Team at the Counseling Center 217-333-3704. Any individual (friend, relative, faculty, residence hall staff) can notify the Suicide Prevention Team if a student they know makes a suicidal threat or attempt and is no longer in imminent danger. Information about Suicide Incident Reporting can be access via the Suicide Incident Referral Form.
You can also take the Kognito At-Risk online suicide prevention training to learn how to identify distressed students, talk to them, and put them in touch with campus support services.