Together we can prevent suicide

Information For Faculty/Staff

Faculty and staff are in a unique position to identify and recognize students who may be dealing with emotional distress or crisis. As a faculty or staff member, you often get the first glimpse of students in trouble, and may be the first person students turn to for help.

Responding to students in distress, however, can be confusing and overwhelming. The counseling center welcomes the opportunity to help. Call 803-777-5223 for assistance and consultation.

Guidelines for Interaction:

• Talk to the student in private.
• Express concern. Be as direct and specific as possible in stating your reasons for concern.
• Listen carefully.
• Repeat the essence of what the student has told you so your attempts to understand are communicated.
• Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.

It is important that you know the signs of a person who is at risk for suicide. Familiarize yourself with these warning signs and sign up for a suicide prevention training.

Warning Signs of Suicide

Substance Abuse


Mood Changes

A person in acute risk for suicidal behavior most often will show:

Warning Signs of Risk

• Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or speaking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and/or,
• Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
• Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide when these actions are out of the ordinary.

These might be remembered as expressed or communicated ideation.

If you observe this in a student, seek help as soon as possible by contacting the counseling center at 803-777-5223. Then, complete a report to the Behavioral Intervention Team at This allows the USC team to gather information quickly and determine the appropriate response to maintain the safety of students.

Additional Warning Signs:

• Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
• Communicating no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
• Anxiety, agitation or inability to sleep or sleeping all the time
• Feeling trapped—like there’s no way out
• Hopelessness
• Withdrawal from friends, family and society
• Rage, uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
• Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
• Dramatic mood changes

If you recognize any of these warning signs:

Take it Seriously

• Fifty to 75 percent of all suicides victims give some warning signs of their intentions.
• Imminent signs must be taken seriously.

Be Willing to Listen

• Be non-judgmental—don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong.
• Express concern. Be as direct and specific as possible in stating your reasons for concern.
• Be available—show interest, understanding, and support.
• Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide.

• Asking will not “put the idea” in their head.
• Ask “Are you thinking of suicide?” or “You seem like you feel like things aren’t going to get better. Sometimes when people feel as if things aren’t going to get better, they think about killing themselves. Have you been thinking about killing yourself?”

• Offer hope.
• Do not attempt to argue someone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are often temporary and there is treatment.

Seek Professional Help
Be actively involved in connecting the person with a mental health professional. 

• Call the counseling center at 803-777-5223, or walk in to the Close-Hipp Building on the fifth floor.

• If someone needs help after business hours, contact the University’s Division of Law Enforcement and Safety at 803-777-4215.

• If the above options are unavailable, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

• Call Palmetto Behavioral Health Care Assessment Center at 803 434-4813.

• Call Columbia Area Mental Health Center at 803 898-8888.

• Call Lexington County Community Mental Health Center at 803-739-8600.

• Complete a report to the Behavioral Intervention Team at

• People contemplating suicide often don't believe they can be helped, so you may have to do more.

Follow-up on Treatment
Suicidal people are often hesitant to seek help and may need your continuing support to pursue treatment after an initial contact.

Self care
Faculty and Staff can also be at risk for mental health issues and suicide. Make self-care a part of your regular routine, develop a support system, and seek consultation with difficult students. You can also access the Deer Oaks Employee Assistance Program at 1-866-327-2400 for 24/7 crisis support, access to mental health services, and many other benefits.

Campus resources

Counseling services at 803-777-5223 or in the Close-Hipp Building on the fifth floor. For consultation with a counselor, call and state “I am concerned about a student and would like to speak with a counselor.”

Call Student Health Services at 803-777-3175.

Call the Behavioral Intervention Team at 803-777-4333.

Call the Office of Student Disability Services at 803-777-6142.

Call the USC Division of Law Enforcement & Safety at 803-777-4215 or 911 for dispatch

Together we can prevent suicide.