What to do if you’re worried about a friend

Learn more during Suicide Prevention Week Sept. 7-11

All events are free and open to students.

Suicide – it’s not an easy topic to talk about, but it is so 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 thinking about suicide to get the help they need.

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

Ask 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 that 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.

Resources

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

  • If someone is in immediate risk of hurting themselves or someone else, call 911.
  • Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) on campus offers virtual counseling 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.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support and can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
  • The Crisis Text Line offers free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text HOME to 741741 to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
  • 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.

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 that 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 as well (by doing so, you also show them that you are someone they can reach out to).

Supporting a friend

  • Acknowledge their distress. Let them know you hear them.
  • Be direct. Talk openly about suicide, your concerns and what you have noticed.
  • Listen without judgment. Allow them to express their feelings and concerns without lecturing or giving them advice.
  • Encourage them to seek help. If they feel comfortable with you, ask if you can help them connect with a resource. Never promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.
  • Follow up. Check in with your friend about what they need, where they are, and how you can support them.

Remember that you are not responsible for the outcome. Getting someone connected to a professional resource is the best thing that you can do. If you’re unsure about what to do, you can 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% 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. Learn more about counseling options available at CU Boulder.

Learn more about CU’s suicide prevention campaign.

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