#Askingforafriend: How to support a peer contemplating suicide

By Kiesha Collins
GCU Office of Student Care
#Askingforafriend

Supporting friends or family who are experiencing depression certainly can be a challenging task. So what do we do when we are sensing that a peer may be contemplating suicide?

In this article we will clarify common warning signs, provide helpful tips on how to be supportive and offer a list of campus resources for you to feel more prepared if such a situation were to arise.

Warning signs

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicidal individuals display one or more of the following warning signs:

Talk

  • Talking about killing themselves (some may talk about a specific plan, and some may make general comments about wanting to be dead), whether in person, via text or on social media.
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness and having no reason to be alive anymore.
  • Sharing worries and fears about being a burden on others.
  • Discussing feelings of being trapped and suffering unbearable pain.

Behavior

A change in behaviors after a painful situation or loss:

  • New or increased substance use
  • Withdrawing and isolating increasingly
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting, calling, texting or posting on social media to say goodbye
  • Giving away possessions (especially items that were important to them)
  • Increased aggressive behaviors
  • Increased fatigue and malaise
  • Seeking access to the means to kill themselves
  • Increased reckless behavior

Mood

Displaying dramatic mood changes, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Guilt/shame
  • Anger
  • Loss of interest in previous hobbies and passions
  • Relief or sudden improvement after prolonged depression

If you suspect that someone you know may be contemplating suicide, the most important step you can take is to directly ask them. It is an uncomfortable question to ask, but it is necessary to be direct and frank versus guessing what might be going on in their mind.

Ask them, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” If their answer is yes, probe a little deeper with the following question: “Do you have a plan and the means to do it?”

Listen to what this person has to say – really listen. Hold back judgment and give them the space to share.

If you received a yes for both questions and are concerned for their safety, let them know that you are going to seek additional support and help for them. Stay with this individual for as long as you can or call in other friends/roommates/peers if possible.

Crisis support

  • Call Campus Safety at 602-639-8100 and let them know that you are concerned about the individual’s safety (available 24 hours a day)
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (available 24 hours a day)
  • Text TALK to 741741 (available 24 hours a day)
  • Let your RA or RD know about the situation
  • If this takes place in class, get your instructor involved
  • Walk with the individual to the Office of Student Care on campus, located in Building 26, second floor (open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday)

Being present and offering support for a peer contemplating suicide can be a stressful situation, but know that there are many people you can turn to at Grand Canyon University during a crisis.

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Bible Verse

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)

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