Responding to Suicide or Risk of Violence

Show you care. Connect on an emotional level. Listen.

  • Ask, "How are you feeling?"
  • Say, "I'm concerned about you. I noticed you haven't been going to class."
  • Listen with respect. Most individuals in distress want understanding and care.

Ask about suicide directly!

  • Don't be afraid to ask about suicide directly. Talking about suicide does not put the idea in a person's head. That is a myth!
  • Say, "Sometimes when people are feeling as upset (sad, depressed) as you are, they often think about suicide. I'm wondering if you're having thoughts of suicide."
  • If the individual responds with a yes, say, "I'm worried about you, and I want you to be OK."
  • Ask, "Have you thought how you would kill yourself?"
  • If the person has a plan, he or she is at an increased risk of attempting or completing suicide.

Get help. Explore options. Offer resources.

  • Ask something like, "Who can help?" or, "Who usually helps?"
  • Avoid being the only lifeline. Consult with a professional counselor at your college. Remember, FERPA allows you to share information you observed or heard with another college official.
  • Ask, "How would you feel about going to the counseling center?" or make suggestions like, "Let's walk over right now" or "I'll walk over with you."

Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t argue about the moral issue of suicide or lecture on the value of life.
  • Do validate that depression and suicidal feelings are real, common and treatable.
  • Don’t promise to keep the person’s suicidal thoughts a secret.
  • Do get assistance. A judgment should be made by a mental health professional about the seriousness of a suicidal thought or behavior.

Talking about Suicide

If a student talks or writes about suicide, this should be taken seriously. Suicidal thoughts are in themselves not necessarily dangerous; however, if the student discusses actual plans for suicidal behaviors, the severity of danger increases dramatically. Never assume that talk of suicide is simply an attention-seeking gesture. This could be a fatal mistake. 

The statistics:
  • 10.3 percent of college students consider suicide.
  • 6.7 percent of college students make a plan.
  • 1.5 percent of college students attempt suicide.
  • It is estimated that there are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses per year, according to the American College Health Association.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, second only to accidents.

 If you become aware of a student who is thinking about suicide, please make an immediate referral to the Counseling Center, Bldg. S, Room S136. Please call 972-860-4673/4339 for a consultation if you are unsure how to handle this situation or if the student is reluctant. 

If a student clearly states the intent to commit suicide, call the campus Police Department by dialing 9-1-1 from a college phone or at 972-860-4290. Dialing 9-1-1 from an outside line will take you to the nationally recognized 9-1-1 service. 

As with many of life's problems, early intervention is often better. A person who receives appropriate help sooner, rather than later, may be less likely to experience more severe symptoms or cause harm to self or others.

By knowing about the warning signs and available resources, you will be able to better identify and respond to a situation.

How to react if you are concerned someone may cause harm to themselves or others:


  • Share your concerns with the CARE Team
  • Listen and offer support in a non-judgmental way
  • Widen options and explore alternatives for problem solving
  • Ask direct questions about the person's intentions; if appropriate, ask if the person is considering suicide or other acts of violence
  • Communicate your concern for the person's well-being
  • Recommend that the person reach out to someone who can help them figure out what to do next (e.g., clergy, supervisor, mental health professional)
  • Call the police if you believe the risk of harm to self or others is immediate

Do Not:

  • Say, "Everything will be alright"
  • Dare the person to "do it"
  • Tell the person about someone who "has it worse"
  • Promise to keep the conversation a secret
  • Leave the person alone if you believe the risk of harm to self or others is immediate
  • Provide counseling if you are not qualified to do so

How to React to a Violent Person

You need to:

  • Get to a secure location as soon as possible
  • Notify the police
  • Provide all information available to you
  • Do not try to be the mediator
  • Remain calm