Published: Oct. 4, 2017

Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about, but it is important. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college-aged students. Whether you or someone you care about is having a hard time, it’s important for someone who is suicidal to get the help they need.

Here are a few things you can do if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide.

Young woman sits in windowAsk the question

A lot of us are afraid that asking if someone is thinking about suicide can plant the idea or make them think about it more. Research shows this is not true. Instead, by asking, “Have you had thoughts about suicide?” we communicate that we really care about the person. Asking the question can start the conversation to help support them in getting the help they need.

Know the signs

We can look out for a number of different signs to know when it’s time to ask the question. For example, if someone has expressed that they feel like a burden, has become isolated, has stopped doing things they love, is no longer caring for themselves or starts talking about wanting to die, you might ask if they’ve had thoughts about suicide.

Have a plan to reach out

When we feel depressed, anxious or some combination of both, we can easily become isolated and feel like a burden. Even if you doubt it, someone cares about you and wants you around.

Studies show when people write down who they would reach out to if they were in a crisis or felt suicidal, they are less likely to act on suicidal thoughts; try this strategy out for yourself and encourage friends to try, as well (by doing so, you also show them you are someone they can reach out to).

Supporting a friend

  • Be direct. Talk openly about suicide and what your concerns are.
  • Listen without judgment. Allow them to express their feelings and concerns.
  • Encourage them to seek help. If they feel comfortable with you, ask if you can help them connect with a resource.
  • Follow up. Check in with your friend about what they need, where they are and how you can support them.

Remember, you are not responsible for the outcome. Getting someone connected to a professional resource is the best thing you can do. If you’re unsure about what to do, reach out to a professional to help you plan your next steps.

Counseling works

Research demonstrates that talking to a mental health professional can help with reframing our thoughts and reducing suicidal ideation. Students who go to their counseling center are 14 percent more likely to succeed academically than those who do not. Medication distributed by a licensed professional can also be effective in helping people feel like themselves again.

Resources

Whether you’re calling for yourself or for a friend, there are resources available to support you.

  • Call 911. If someone is in immediate risk of hurting themselves or someone else, call for help.
  • On-campus support: Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) on campus offers walk-in and crisis care services during normal business hours. Anyone can call their main line at 303-492-2277 to speak with a licensed professional 24/7.
  • Off-campus support: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support and can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. Colorado Crisis Services also offers walk-in and crisis intervention services at a variety of locations throughout Colorado. They can be reached 24/7 at 1-844-493-8255.