Helping Your Peers: Suicide Prevention

If you think that any of your friends or classmates may be thinking of killing themselves, there are two important things you can do: Talk to them, and express your concern to a responsible adult.
Having someone to talk to can make a big difference. College students will often share secrets and feelings with their peers that they will not share with older adults. However, you may need to be persistent before they are willing to talk. Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. Talking about suicide or suicidal thoughts will not push someone to kill themselves. It is also not true that people who talk about killing themselves will not actually try it. Take any expressed intention of suicide very seriously.

You should be especially concerned if people tell you that they have made a detailed suicide plan or obtained a means of hurting themselves. If they announce that they are thinking of taking an overdose of prescription medication or jumping from a particular bridge, stay with them until they are willing to go with you and talk to a responsible adult or until a responsible adult can be found who will come to you.

Don't pretend you have all the answers. The most important thing you can do may be to help them find help. Never promise to keep someone's intention to kill him or herself a secret.

If you have talked with a friend or classmate and think that person is in danger, yet the person refuses to get help, you need to talk to a responsible adult who can intervene. You should also find a responsible adult if your friend or classmate refuses to discuss the issue with you, or if you think that you don't know the person well enough to initiate a personal conversation.

Find someone who is concerned with and understands young people and can help. This might be a member of your friend's family, or it could be a residence assistant, a professor, an administrator, a member of the clergy, or someone who works in campus mental health services or the health clinic. If this adult doesn't take you or your friend's problem seriously or doesn't know what to do, talk to someone else. Our Counseling & Psychiatry staff will respond to your concern.

Don't be afraid of being wrong. It is difficult for even experts to understand who is at serious risk of suicide and who is not. Many of the warning signs for suicide could also indicate problems with drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, depression, or another mental illness. Young people with these problems need help-and you can help.