TALKING TO YOUR STUDENT
How to Talk to Your Student
The sooner warning signs are detected and help sought, the better the outcome of a suicidal crisis will be. Asking someone about the presence of suicidal thoughts and feelings opens up a conversation that may lead to a referral for help. Referral to local resources and/or calling emergency helpline is critical.
- Plan a time and place to ask about suicide.
- Try to get the person alone or in a private setting.
- Give yourself plenty of time to help. Acknowledge the person’s distress and listen.
- Take a direct or less direct approach to ask them about the situation. Asking will not increase suicide risk. Research demonstrates when someone who is contemplating suicide is asked by someone, they feel relief, not distress.
- Less direct
- Have you been unhappy lately?
- Have you been very unhappy lately?
- Have you been so very unhappy you wished you were dead? –or- Do you every wish you could go to sleep and never wake up? –or-You know, when people are as upset as you seem to be, they sometimes wish they were dead; I’m wondering if you’re feeling that way too?
- More direct
- Have you ever wanted to stop living?
- You look pretty miserable; Are you thinking of killing yourself?
- Are you thinking about suicide?
- Less direct
- Listen and ask to help.
- Give the student your full attention, only speak when person finished speaking, do not rush to judgment, manage personal fear to focus on the student. Get a yes from the student to accept help after offering.
- Examples of ways to offer help:
- Will you go with me to see a counselor (or priest, minister, school nurse, psychologist, or a professional they are willing to see)?
- Will you let me help you make an appointment with…? Will you promise me…?
- It’s often a good idea to get the person to agree to go on living and make a recommitment to life.You can say: “I want you to live. What do you have in your life that is worth living for?”
- Persist in statements that suicide is not a good solution and suggest that better alternatives can be found; focus on solutions to problems, not the suicide solution; accept the reality of the person’s pain, but then offer alternatives; offer hope in any form and in any way.
- Reduce the risk that they can commit suicide by taking objects like car keys or medications from the individual and ensure no firearms or medications are available in their home
- Refer them to a professional.
- Physically take the person to mental health provider or other appropriate professional; if not possible, ensure the person keeps appointment with professional.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline
If a student is experiencing a mental health crisis or medical emergency, call toll-free at 800.273.8255. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
Not sure what to do or who to talk to? Refer to your school's suicide policy