It is not possible to list all of the potential warning signs that may suggest that a person may be thinking about harming themselves. The following list identifies some behaviors/symptoms to look for and how you can help someone in need.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Talking about suicide.
A person may make direct statements such as “I want to kill myself” or indirect statements such as “this world would be a better place without me.”
- A pattern of changes in behavior.
Significant increase or decrease in sleep, significant increase or decrease in eating, decreased interest and participation in activities, a significant decrease in academic performance, increased engagement in impulsive risk-taking behavior, decrease in mood, or a sudden marked increase in mood.
- Feelings of hopelessness.
The person conveys the belief that things will never get better.
- Preparations for death.
Purchase of or possession of the means to kill oneself, giving away one’s possessions or writing a will.
- A recent experience of a major loss.
The recent death of a family member or close friend, the recent loss of anything of significance to a person, such as the loss of a job, or the ending of a relationship.
- Alcohol and other drug abuse.
This is particularly of concern when a person has a tendency toward impulsive behavior when under the influence of these substances.
- History of previous suicide attempts.
The attempt may have been made by the individual or there may be a history of others in their lives who have died by suicide.
Ways to Help Someone in a Suicidal Crisis
If you have an immediate concern about the mental health of another student, offer to walk them over to Counseling Services, Building 960, Suite 200A, and inform our staff that you consider it an emergency situation. The student will then be seen as soon as possible. You can also call 850.474.2420 to consult with Counseling Services in order to determine what action to take.
If the person is not willing to go to Counseling Services, you can contact the UWF Campus Police at 850.474.2415 to do a welfare check on the student. If they live off-campus then the nearest local law enforcement office can be contacted to do a welfare check. Your nearest emergency room can also provide a mental health evaluation for anyone who is considered at immediate risk of harming themselves.
If you have the concern that a person may be thinking about killing themselves, but are not sure, consider doing the following:
- Find a safe place to talk to them.
It is important to find a place that will not cause you to feel interrupted, rushed, or overheard.
- Let them know what you have observed.
Tell the student about behaviors you have noticed that have caused you to feel concerned about them.
- Ask them directly.
While some may fear that this could cause a person to want to kill themselves, this is not the case. If a person is suicidal, talking about it can be helpful in that it helps a person to realize they are not alone, it can sometimes reduce their thoughts about harming themselves, and it can result in them getting the help they need.
Many people underestimate the power of being heard. Providing a person a place to talk where they do not feel judged can sometimes help them feel less alone with their pain and can improve the likelihood that they will reach out and accept help from mental health professionals.
- Do not put pressure on yourself to solve a person’s problems at that time.
This could give the impression that you think their pain is less significant than it is and that it can be relieved by one change in their lives. It suggests that you just don’t get it. While a person may want to problem solve with a therapist or someone else later, they often initially just need to be able to express what they are thinking and feeling.
- Do not try to cheer them up.
They will feel disconnected from you.
- Do not try to provide reassurances.
Providing reassurances will cause them to think that you really don’t understand.
- Do not argue with the person’s feelings.
Statements such as “You really don’t feel that way” will only further distance you from the person.
- Take care of yourself.
When you are worried about the potential suicidal ideation of another person it is important that you also take care of yourself. You may need to seek out emotional support for yourself or may need to ensure that you are taking time for your own relaxation and stress reduction.
- Don’t keep suicidal communication a secret.
If a person is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is more important to get that person help than to hold their secret. It may help to let the person know that you would rather have them angry at you than to have them think that you are not taking their concerns and their life seriously.
What to do After Getting Help
After you get help for a person who is suicidal, check in with them to see how they are doing. It may feel uncomfortable for them the first time they see you after they have made their disclosed their suicidal thoughts to you. Reaching out to them can help them resume feeling comfortable around you.
This can also be a very stressful time for you. Make sure you get the support you need from trusted others in your life or a professional.
- Helping A Friend In Need
- CAPS Emergency Services
- CAPS Local Area Services and Additional Resources
- The JED Foundation
- Suicide Prevention – National Institute of Mental Health
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- The Trevor Project – LGBTQ+ focused
- Veterans Crisis Line – Military and veteran focused
If you would like to learn more about how to help someone in a suicidal crisis, consider attending a QPR Suicide Prevention Training. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. This is a training program offered to students, faculty and staff that builds skills for recognizing and responding effectively to suicide warning signs. QPR is easy to learn, takes only one hour and is free to students, faculty and staff. To find out about how to schedule training for your department or student organization, contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 850.474.2420 or email@example.com. Visit the QPR Institute website for more information on QPR.
If you feel you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions and you'd like to talk to a counselor about it, please contact us at 850.474.2420 or stop by UWF Counseling and Psychological Services in Building 960, Suite 200A, to schedule an appointment. We also offer Emergency Services; if you feel like you are in an emergency situation and need to be seen as soon as possible, please let us know when you are making your appointment.