Assisting the Student Who May be Suicidal

 Facts about suicide

Although suicide is a rare event, it is the second leading cause of death among college students.

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 15-24.
  • Suicidal states are often associated with major depression, a combination of acute anxiety and depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder.
  • People who are suicidal often tell people about their thoughts or give clues to others about their feelings.

Some factors associated with suicide risk are:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Pessimistic view of the future
  • Intense feelings of hopelessness, especially when combined with anxiety/feelings of alienation and isolation
  • Viewing death as a means of escape from distress
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Personal or family history of depression or suicide

A student who is suicidal and who confides in someone is often ambivalent about suicide and open to discussion.

Students who are at high risk usually have a specific plan, have a means that is lethal (e.g., medication, knife, gun) and tend to be or feel isolated.


What You Can Do

 Call 828.227.8911 if the student is in immediate danger to him/herself.

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Remain calm and take the lead.
  • Take a student’s disclosure as a serious plea for help.
  • Assure the student that you will help him or her reach a professional.
  • If the incident occurs during business hours, escort the student to Counseling and Psychological Services located in the Bird Building.
  • Call 828.227.8911 to access emergency services on weekends or after hours.
  • If you feel overwhelmed or unprepared to help a suicidal student, call Counseling and Psychological Services (828..227.7469).



 Minimizing the situation. All threats must be considered potentially lethal.

  • Minimizing the situation.  All threats must be considered potentially lethal.
  • Arguing with the student about the merits of living.
  • Allowing friends to assume responsibility for the student without getting input from a professional.
  • Assuming the family knows that the student has suicidal thoughts.
  • Discussing the student’s personal or family history of suicide attempts.

Copyright by Western Carolina University      •      Cullowhee, NC 28723      •      828.227.7211      •      Contact WCU
Maintained by the Office of Web Services      •      Directions      •      Campus Map      •      Emergency Information      •      Text-Only

Office of Web Services