Photo of someone standing in the rain with an umbrella at night.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there are resources that can help. 

  • Life-threatening emergency: Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
  • National Suicide Prevention: 988 or 800-273-8255 (English) 888-628-9454 (Spanish)

Join Health and Wellness Services for Suicide Prevention Week Sept. 5-9

Suicide may feel like a difficult or awkward topic to bring up, especially if you’re not certain that someone is thinking about taking their own life. However, it’s important to know that talking about it, even if the conversation is brief, can reduce shame and encourage someone who is struggling or at risk to seek out support.

Here are three things everyone should know about suicide.


1) There is no one cause of suicide

While mental health conditions like depression are often associated with suicide, it’s important to know that there is no one cause of suicide. In fact, people may contemplate or attempt suicide for a number of different reasons.

Suicide impacts individuals and communities across all categories of age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and socioeconomic status. While suicide can impact anyone, some populations like LGBTQ+ individuals, young adults and veterans are at a higher risk.

Here are a few risk factors that may increase the chance that someone attempts to take their own life.

 Note: It’s important to know that the presence of any of the following factors doesn’t necessarily mean someone is considering suicide. The more factors that are present for an individual, the higher the risk may be. 

Interpersonal factors

  • Loss of a support system (e.g. moving away, transferring schools or jobs, coming out, etc.)
  • Significant personal losses (e.g. death of a loved one, eviction, unemployment, etc.)
  • Exposure to suicidal behaviors by others, such as friends, family or celebrities
  • Experiences of abuse, neglect or trauma

Environmental factors

  • A personal crisis, especially if it increases a person’s sense of isolation or impacts self-esteem (e.g. breakup or divorce, academic or professional setback, etc.)
  • Access to lethal means (e.g. firearms, drugs/medications, etc.)
  • Prolonged stress (e.g. bullying, harassment, relationship problems, abuse, etc.)

Health factors

  • Preexisting or acute onset of mental health conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety, psychosis, etc.)
  • Substance use disorder(s)
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Illnesses or medications that cause changes in mood
  • Serious health conditions (e.g. chronic health conditions, pain, disability, etc.)
  • Traumatic brain injury

2) Many suicides can have warning signs

People who are experiencing suicidal thoughts may exhibit one or more warning signs before acting on those thoughts. Some may disclose their intent to a loved one before acting, such as confiding in a friend or family member while others may provide more subtle hints. 

In some cases, people exhibit signs in one area of their lives but not in another, so increasing the number of people who are aware of these signs increases the likelihood that we can notice when a person is in distress and get them connected to support. It’s also important to know that not everyone discloses their intent to die by suicide before they act on it. It is not your fault if you “miss” the signs. Chances are, they may not have been there. 

If you’re concerned that someone may be at risk of harming themselves, listen to your instincts. Here are a few things to watch out for if you are concerned that someone may be at risk of committing suicide.

Comments

Someone may talk about worrying things like:

  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped or helpless
  • Unbearable pain or suffering

Behaviors

Someone may behave in new or unusual ways, especially if it is related to a painful event, loss or change:

  • Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from regular activities
  • Isolating from friends or family
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Giving away possessions
  • Aggression or outbursts of emotion, including crying fits
  • Fatigue
  • Researching ways to end their life
  • Engaging in reckless or dangerous behaviors (e.g. speeding, adrenaline-chasing, etc.)

Feelings

Someone may display one of more of the following moods or emotions:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • A loss of interest
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation/shame
  • Agitation/anger
  • Relief/sudden improvement
  • Numbness
  • Lack of motivation or shut down

3) Suicide is preventable

If you are concerned that a friend, family member, classmate or loved one is at risk of harming themselves or committing suicide, there are ways to help someone find support.

 Talk about your concerns

If you’re worried someone may be at risk, find a time to speak with them privately about your concerns. Listen to their story without judgment, and let them know you care about them. If you’re unsure if they have contemplated suicide, ask them gently and directly. For instance, you can say something like, “It sounds like you’ve been going through some tough times lately, and I want to make sure you’re okay. Are you having thoughts of suicide, or are you thinking of killing yourself?” Asking about suicide directly communicates that we’re okay having a deeper conversation with the person about how they’re really doing. 

If they say they have thought about suicide or are actively considering suicide, take them seriously. Stay with them to ensure that they are safe. You may need to help identify and remove potential means of suicide from their possession such as drugs/medications or firearms. Connect with crisis support services on their behalf.

​ Manage your emotions

Bringing up suicide and talking about it can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if someone tells us they have considered suicide. Prepare yourself before starting the conversation, so you can manage your own emotions. When we project our own fears or anxieties, it can cause the other person to shut us out or become more distressed. Take a moment to calm yourself before approaching the person you’re worried about. Remember to reiterate your care and concern.

​ Follow up

If you know someone who is struggling, even if they are not considering suicide, it’s important to follow up with them. Check in on them to see what they need, how they’re doing and how you can support them. You can send them a text, give them a call or invite them to hang out and catch up.

​ Instill hope

If you know someone who is struggling, let them know there are resources available to help and things can get better. Don’t hesitate to call CAPS (303-492-2277) for help if you’re worried about someone’s safety. 

Note: Suicide can raise difficult questions for friends and family members who are left behind. Loved ones may ask themselves: What did I miss? What could I have done?

While some people exhibit one or more warning signs before acting on suicidal thoughts, others may die by suicide without advanced warning. It is important to remember that someone’s decision to take their own life is not a reflection on their loved ones.

Here are some resources that are available to help students, staff and faculty memebrs who are struggling with mental health concerns or thoughts of suicide.

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​ If you or someone you know is threatening to imminently kill or harm themselves, call 911 and request emergency mental health support.

Resources for students

Welfare checks

Welfare checks can be instituted by any police department if you’re concerned about the health, safety or welfare of someone. Be prepared to give the exact address (residence hall and room number if on campus) as well as the reason for your concerns.

  • On campus: CUPD 303-492-6666
  • Off campus: Boulder Police 303-441-3333

 Emergency/urgent resource

Crisis services

If a student is in need of urgent or same-day support, Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides crisis support 24/7. Call 303-492-2277 to connect with a triage counselor.

 Urgent resource

Student Support and Case Management (SSCM)

SSCM provides support for students throughout their time at CU Boulder. They are here to help students identify issues and appropriate resources. They also work collaboratively with students to develop an action plan.

 Urgent resource

Let’s Talk

If a student is not currently suicidal but may be struggling, Let’s Talk is a great way to get connected with support services. They can meet one-on-one with a counselor for a confidential consultation that can help them gain insight and connect with additional resources on campus.

Workshops

If a student is not currently suicidal but may be struggling, workshops are a great way for students to learn coping skills related to anxiety, stress and other painful emotions. Workshops are available throughout the week and are covered by the student mental health fee.

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event.

Resources for staff and faculty

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program

FSAP provides free short-term counseling to CU Boulder staff and faculty. All FSAP providers are trained as generalist counselors and are equipped to help you navigate a wide range of personal- and work-related issues.

Available to staff and faculty

Crisis services

If you or a colleague is in need of urgent or same-day support, call the National Suicide Hotline at 988 or 800-273-8255 (English) or 888-628-9454 (Spanish).

Available to staff and faculty

Office of Victim Assistance (OVA)

OVA provides free and confidential information, consultation, support, advocacy and short-term counseling services for students, grad students, faculty and staff who have experienced a traumatic, disturbing or life-disruptive event.

Available to staff and faculty

Student Support and Case Management (SSCM)

SSCM provides individualized support to students. SSCM case managers connect students with campus partners, community resources and support systems, while also building a trusting relationship and coaching them toward self-advocacy.

Student referrals

Health and Wellness liaisons

CU Boulder colleges and schools have access to dedicated teams of liaisons from Counseling and Psychiatric Services, the Office of Victim Assistance and Health Promotion. 

Student referrals

Red Folder

Red Folder provides information on how to recognize signs of distress, tips for responding and how to refer a student to the appropriate campus resources. 

Student referrals