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Suicide Prevention

Suicide affects millions of people each year. While there is no single cause to suicide, it most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. Fortunately, suicide is preventable, and everyone can play a role in suicide prevention.

We Can All Prevent Suicide

Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide

We Believe

Hope Can Happen

Suicide is not inevitable for anyone. By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.

We Can All Take Action

Evidence shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm, and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.

Crisis Centers are Critical

By offering immediate counseling to everyone that may need it, local crisis centers provide invaluable support at critical times and connect individuals to local services.

  • If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts and need to talk to a crisis counselor there are several options:
    • DU Health and Counseling Center: (303) 871-2205
    • Colorado Crisis Services: (844) 493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
    • DU Chaplain Services: (303) 871-4488
    • For life-threatening emergencies, dial 911

 

What You Can Do

If you are suffering an emotional or suicidal crisis, we want you to know that there is hope and help is available to you. Read below for strategies and tips to keep yourself safe and steps you can take right now to get yourself back on track and living mentally well.

In an emergency or crisis:

  • If you have tried to hurt yourself or have recently attempted, get help immediately by calling 911.
  • If you are not hurt, have a friend help you get to the emergency room
  • If you are having suicidal thoughts and need to talk to a crisis counselor there are several options:
    • DU Health and Counseling Center: (303) 871-2205
    • Colorado Crisis Services: (844) 493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
    • DU Chaplain Services: (303) 871-4488
    • For life-threatening emergencies, dial 911

Remove access to lethal means

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, get rid of any potential item that could be harmful like knives, firearms or medications. Ask a friend or family member to store your medications until you feel better. If you own a firearm, store it in a safe or lock box and ask a friend of family member to hold onto the key for you.

Learn more about what's going on

Start by learning the symptoms of depression and the warning signs of suicide. Be honest with yourself as you evaluate your own thoughts and feelings. Don’t be afraid to reach out even if you think your problems are too small. If something negatively affects you or is keeping you from living mentally well, it matters.

Get Talking

Even if you don’t think you will act upon them, if you are having thoughts about killing or hurting yourself, you need to talk about it with someone. This is a vital first step in the process of getting better. Know that it is OK to have suicidal thoughts, but it’s not OK to keep your thoughts secret. Don’t be afraid to reach out or ask for help. Help is available and more options for getting help exist than ever before. Reach out to at least one or more of the following:
  • Family member
  • Friend
  • Crisis Counselor
    • DU Health and Counseling Center: (303) 871-2205
    • Colorado Crisis Services: (844) 493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
    • DU Chaplain Services: (303) 871-4488
  • Primary Care Doctor
  • For life-threatening emergencies, dial 911

Create a Safety Plan

Having a safety plan in place during a time of emotional vulnerability or in crisis is one way to help manage your thoughts and feelings and a quick way to refer yourself to help. Use the link below for a safety plan template. Share your safety plan with your doctor(s), family, friends, or anyone else in your support network.

Take care of your physical health

Are you taking care of your physical health? In times of bad or negative stress or after a major life event, remember to pay attention to your body. Mental and physical health are deeply interconnected, and it’s important to deal with any health issues that may be holding you back. If health issues are part of the problem, consider seeing a therapist who may help you adjust to your new physical reality. If you are physically able, try a new exercise regimen. If you’re new to exercise, remember to consult with your doctor before beginning or start slow and gradually increase intensity and longevity.


 

Helping a Suicide Loss Surivor Heal

Historian Arnold Toynbee once wrote, "There are always two parties to a death; the person who dies and the survivors who are bereaved." Unfortunately, many survivors of suicide suffer alone and in silence. The silence that surrounds them often complicates the healing that comes from being encouraged to mourn.

Because of the social stigma surrounding suicide, survivors feel the pain of the loss, yet may not know how, or where, or if, they should express it. Yet, the only way to heal is to mourn. Just like other bereaved persons grieving the loss of someone loved, suicide survivors need to talk, to cry, sometimes to scream, in order to heal.

As a result of fear and misunderstanding, survivors of suicide deaths are often left with a feeling of abandonment at a time when they desperately need unconditional support and understanding. Without a doubt, suicide survivors suffer in a variety of ways: one, because they need to mourn the loss of someone who has died; two, because they have experienced a sudden, typically unexpected traumatic death; and three, because they are often shunned by a society unwilling to enter into the pain of their grief.

How can you help?

A friend or family member has experienced the death of someone loved from suicide. You want to help, but you are not sure how to go about it. This page will guide you in ways to turn your cares and concerns into positive action.

Accept the Intensity of the Grief

Grief following a suicide is always complex. Survivors don't "get over it." Instead, with support and understanding they can come to reconcile themselves to its reality. Don't be surprised by the intensity of their feelings. Sometimes, when they least suspect it, they may be overwhelmed by feelings of grief. Accept that survivors may be struggling with explosive emotions, guilt, fear and shame, well beyond the limits experienced in other types of deaths. Be patient, compassionate and understanding.

Listen With Your Heart

Assisting suicide survivors means you must break down the terribly costly silence. Helping begins with your ability to be an active listener. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judgment are critical helping tools. Willingness to listen is the best way to offer help to someone who needs to talk.

Thoughts and feelings inside the survivor may be frightening and difficult to acknowledge. Don't worry so much about what you will say. Just concentrate on the words that are being shared with you.

Your friend may relate the same story about the death over and over again. Listen attentively each time. Realize this repetition is part of your friend's healing process. Simply listen and understand. And, remember, you don't have to have the answer.

Avoid Simplistic Explanations and Clichés

Words, particularly clichés, can be extremely painful for a suicide survivor. Clichés are trite comments often intended to diminish the loss by providing simple solutions to difficult realities. Comments like, "You are holding up so well," "Time will heal all wounds," "Think of what you still have to be thankful for" or "You have to be strong for others" are not constructive. Instead, they hurt and make a friend's journey through grief more difficult.

Be certain to avoid passing judgment or providing simplistic explanations of the suicide. Don't make the mistake of saying the person who suicided was "out of their mind." Informing a survivor that someone they loved was "crazy or insane" typically only complicates the situation. Suicide survivors need help in coming to their own search for understanding of what has happened. In the end, their personal search for meaning and understanding of the death is what is really important.

Be Compassionate

Give your friend permission to express his or her feelings without fear of criticism. Learn from your friend. Don't instruct or set explanations about how they should respond. Never say "I know just how you feel." You don't. Think about your helping role as someone who "walks with," not "behind" or "in front of" the one who is bereaved.

Familiarize yourself with the wide spectrum of emotions that many survivors of suicide experience. Allow your friend to experience all the hurt, sorrow and pain that he or she is feeling at the time. And recognize tears are a natural and appropriate expression of the pain associated with the loss.

Respect the need to grieve

Often ignored in their grief are the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, spouses and children of persons who have suicided. Why? Because of the nature of the death, it is sometimes kept a secret. If the death cannot be talked about openly, the wounds of grief will go unhealed.

As a caring friend, you may be the only one willing to be with the survivors. Your physical presence and permissive listening create a foundation for the healing process. Allow the survivors to talk, but don't push them. Sometimes you may get a cue to back off and wait. If you get a signal that this is what is needed, let them know you are ready to listen if, and when, they want to share their thoughts and feelings.

Understand the uniqueness of suicide grief

Keep in mind that the grief of suicide survivors is unique. No one will respond to the death of someone loved in exactly the same way. While it may be possible to talk about similar phases shared by survivors, everyone is different and shaped by experiences in their life. Because the grief experience is unique, be patient. The process of grief takes a long time, so allow your friend to process the grief at their own pace. Don't criticize what is inappropriate behavior. Remember the death of someone to suicide is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend's life is under reconstruction.

Be aware of holidays and anniversaries

Survivors of suicide may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and anniversaries. These events emphasize the absence of the person who has died. Respect the pain as a natural expression of the grief process. Learn from it. And, most importantly, never try to take the hurt away.

Use the name of the person who has died when talking to survivors. Hearing the name can be comforting and it confirms that you have not forgotten this important person who was so much a part of their lives.

Be aware of support groups

Support groups are one of the best ways to help survivors of suicide. In a group, survivors can connect with other people who share the commonality of the experience. They are allowed and encouraged to tell their stories as much, and as often, as they like. You may be able to help survivors locate such a group. This practical effort on your part will be appreciated.

Respect Faith and Spirituality

If you allow them, a survivor will "teach you" about their feelings regarding faith and spirituality. If faith is part of their lives, let them express it in ways that seem appropriate. If they are mad at God, encourage them to talk about it. Remember, having anger at God speaks of having a relationship with God. Don't be a judge, be a loving friend.

Survivors may also need to explore how religion may have complicated their grief. They may have been taught that persons who take their own lives are doomed to hell. Your task is not to explain theology, but to listen and learn. Whatever the situation, your presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools.

Work Together as Helpers

Friends and family who experience the death of someone to suicide must no longer suffer alone and in silence. As helpers, you need to join with other caring persons to provide support and acceptance for survivors who need to grieve in healthy ways.

To experience grief is the result of having loved. Suicide survivors must be guaranteed this necessity. While the above guidelines on this page will be helpful, it is important to recognize that helping a suicide survivor heal will not be an easy task. You may have to give more concern, time and love than you ever knew you had. But this effort will be more than worth it.

Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Survivors of Suicide

When Someone is at Risk

If you are concerned about a friend who may be in emotional crisis or thinking of suicide, don't hesitate to reach out. There are a number of steps you can take to help ensure their safety.

How to Talk

Don’t assume someone else will reach out. Only one in five seeks help. You can encourage them to make that critical first step. Here are some suggestions

  • Ask if you can talk in private
  • Ask questions to open up the conversation
    • How are you doing?
    • You haven't seemed yourself lately. Is everything okay?
    • Is anything bothering you?
  • Listen to their story and express concern and caring.
  • Ask if they are having thoughts of ending their life.
  • Encourage them to seek mental health services. Tell them seeking help can take courage, but it's the smart thing to do.

Know what to watch for

Suicide preparedness is one of the best ways to ensure you’ll be ready to help a friend who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts. Commit to learning the symptoms of depression and warning signs of suicide. In response to identified campus needs, the DU Mental Health Task Force launched Campus Connect – a suicide prevention skills training program to help students, staff, and faculty recognize and effectively respond to students who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Designed specifically for university communities, this training will provide participants with skills to:

  • Recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis
  • Respond effectively by referring the student to appropriate resources

Register here for an upcoming training.

Know the Risk Factors

Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. They can't cause or predict a suicide attempt, but they're important to be aware of.

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders.
  • Alcohol and other substance user disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship(s)
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and a sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

Know the warning signs

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Health and Counseling Center (303-871-2205) or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255).

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

Know what to do

Stigma associated with mental illnesses can prevent people from getting help. Your willingness to talk about mental or emotional issues and suicide with a friend, family member, or co-worker can be the first step in getting them help and preventing suicide.

If you see the warning signs of suicide or know someone is considering suicide:

  • Take the person seriously
  • Tell them to call the Health and Counseling Center 303-871-2205 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Help them remove lethal means
  • Escort them to an ER, counseling service, or psychiatrist.

Begin a dialogue by asking questions. Suicidal thoughts are common with some mental illnesses and your willingness to talk about it in a non-judgmental, non-confrontational way can be the help a person needs to seeking professional help. Questions okay to ask:

  • "Do you ever feel so badly that you think about suicide?"
  • "Are you having thoughts of suicide?"

Asking these questions will help you to determine if your friend or family members is in immediate danger, and get help if needed. A suicidal person should see a doctor or mental health professional immediately. Calling 911 or going to a hospital emergency room are also good options to prevent a tragic suicide attempt or death. Calling the DU Health and Counseling Center (303-871-2205) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (1-800-273-8255) is also a resource for you or the person you care about for help. Remember, always take thoughts of or plans for suicide seriously.

Asking these questions will help you to determine if your friend or family members is in immediate danger, and get help if needed. A suicidal person should see a doctor or mental health professional immediately. Calling 911 or going to a hospital emergency room are also good options to prevent a tragic suicide attempt or death. Calling the DU Health and Counseling Center (303-871-2205) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (1-800-273-8255) is also a resource for you or the person you care about for help. Remember, always take thoughts of or plans for suicide seriously.

Don’t try to minimize problems or shame a person into changing their mind. Your opinion of a person’s situation is irrelevant. Trying to convince a person suffering with a mental illness that it’s not that bad, or that they have everything to live for may only increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Reassure them that help is available and that what they are experiencing is treatable. Life can get better!

If you feel the person isn’t in immediate danger, acknowledge the pain is legitimate and offer to work together to get help. Make sure you follow through. This is one instance where you must be tenacious in your follow-up. Help find a doctor or a mental health professional, participate in making the first phone call, or go along to the first appointment. If you’re in a position to help, don’t assume that your persistence is unwanted or intrusive. Risking your feelings to help save a life is a risk worth taking.

*National Suicide Lifeline and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention