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Cougar Health Services suicide prevention

7 tips for talking about suicide

7 tips for talking about suicide

When the topic of suicide comes up, you may feel nervous or uncertain about what to say. You might even be afraid you’ll put someone at risk if you talk about suicide. But this isn’t true. In fact, talking about suicide, even if it’s just a short conversation, can encourage people who are at risk to seek help.

Research indicates that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. But it isn’t just the media that influences people who are at risk. Conversations and reactions to suicide by peers and community members can also impact people who are struggling.

At WSU, we want to encourage members of our community to get help when they experience thoughts of suicide or other mental health concerns. To make this happen, follow our tips below to ensure you’re talking about suicide in a way that is helpful.

  1. Offer hope by sharing about the many resources and treatment options available to people struggling with thoughts of suicide
  2. Share information about warning signs and encourage others to add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to their contacts
  3. Talk about mental health concerns as a normal, common experience and emphasize the value of getting help when needed
  4. Refrain from sensationalizing or glamorizing suicide
  5. Avoid speculating and sharing misinformation
  6. Avoid using dramatic or graphic language, including discussion of methods for death by suicide
  7. Educate yourself by seeking out information from suicide prevention experts

Do you want to take an active role in reducing stigma around mental health or learn about how you can support someone experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts? Sign up for our Mental Health First Aid workshop or Campus Connect.

These tips are adapted from Reporting on Suicide’s Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide.

Suicide prevention training available online

Suicide prevention training available online

Research shows the majority of college students who choose to tell someone they’re having suicidal thoughts talk to a friend, roommate, or romantic partner.1 That’s why it’s critical to prepare WSU students to respond to someone in crisis.

As part of our broader suicide prevention efforts, we’re working to train as many students, faculty, and staff as possible through our Campus Connect program. Starting this summer, Campus Connect is available online through our partnership with Global Campus.

Online training gives every Coug access to reliable resources and information related to suicide, and establishes a permanent resource they can refer back to. Offering the program online also ensures that WSU students on campuses throughout Washington and all over the world have access to suicide prevention training.

Anyone with a WSU ID number can access free, full-length suicide prevention training online.  To attend, Campus Connect you can visit the Global Campus website. You can also request brochures typically provided during training.

Please note the activities in this training were modified to suit the needs of a virtual audience. Campus Connect is an interactive training and most effective in-person. Suicide is a challenging and highly personal topic and reactions to talking about issues surrounding mental health and suicide can vary significantly.

If you have more questions or concerns about this topic or training, please email Victoria Braun at Victoria.braun@wsu.edu

1. Drum, Brownson, Burton Denmark, and Smith, 2014 – “New Data on the Nature of Suicidal Crises in College Students: Shifting the Paradigm.” pg. 218

We’re adding more mental health training options

We’re expanding training opportunities for mental health and suicide prevention. By adding more facilitators and online trainings, we’ll be able to educate more Cougs!

We now have two Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) facilitators. Our MHFA classes are always full and we often have to put people on a waiting list. With two facilitators on staff, we’ll be able to train more Cougs how to recognize and assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

We’re working with Global Campus to make mental health-related webinars, like mindfulness and self-care, available online. And coming soon, our suicide prevention training, Campus Connect, will also be available online.

Providing online trainings allows us to reach more people, and establishes a reliable web-based mental health reference Cougs can refer back to.

Additionally, this fall we’re implementing a Campus Connect refresher course to ensure previous participants are up-to-date on best practices in suicide prevention. All returning resident advisors will participate in the refresher course, and new resident advisors will take Campus Connect training for the first time.

When we meet with returning resident advisors, we’ll discuss how they’ve used information from Campus Connect in the past year. We’ll talk about any struggles they experienced with implementing the material, and how we can improve our program in the future.

By utilizing different formats to deliver trainings, and increasing the number of trainings we offer, we’ll be able to train more Cougs, both online, and at the Pullman campus.

Viewing guide for “13 Reasons Why”

Viewing guide for “13 Reasons Why”

The new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, a fictional story about a high school student who dies by suicide, has sparked many conversations about suicide and mental health. Recently, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about this show during suicide prevention and mental health trainings.

We’re really glad to hear community members talking about suicide and mental health. Talking about these topics in a caring and non-judgmental way helps create a culture that encourages getting help when you need it.

Like any dramatized account of mental health issues, it’s important to watch the show with a critical eye. If you’re thinking about watching, or have already watched, “13 Reasons Why”, here are some things to keep in mind.

Make a thoughtful decision whether or not watch the show. You may not want to watch if you’re experiencing, or have previously experienced, significant depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Consider watching the show with others. Discuss what you’re seeing and experiencing along the way.

Be mindful of how the show is affecting you. Stop watching if you find yourself feeling distraught or depressed, having thoughts of suicide, or having trouble sleeping. If this happens, talk about it with someone you trust.

Think about how you might make different choices than the characters. For example, it might be helpful to think through when and how someone could have intervened to help the main character. 

Suicide affects everyone. If you see or hear warning signs that someone is at risk of suicide, it’s critical to get help right away.

If you’re concerned about someone, talk with them openly and honestly. Asking someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts will not make them more suicidal or put the idea of suicide in their mind.

Counselors are professionals and a trustworthy source for help. If your experience with a counselor or therapist is unhelpful, look for another professional to talk to or seek out other sources of support, such as a crisis line.

Suicide is never the fault of survivors. There are resources and support groups to help survivors of suicide loss.

Care for yourself, your friends, and your family members. If you or someone you know is struggling mentally or emotionally, please get help. Getting support from loved ones and mental health care professionals can save lives.

We based these recommendations on guidance from the Jed Foundation.

Strengthening crisis response protocol

At our last meeting with the Jed Foundation, they provided us with recommendations for enhancing our suicide prevention and mental health promotion efforts. Based on their feedback report, our top priority is collecting all relevant crisis response protocols in one comprehensive document.

Our ultimate goal is to establish a protocol that clearly communicates action steps for all WSU departments and personnel both during and after helping a student in crisis.

Many universities have multiple policies and protocols for different types of crises, but don’t have a single comprehensive protocol in place. We’re creating a unified protocol as a proactive step to improve cross-campus collaborative support for students who need help.

Right now, members of the Campus Mental Health Collaborative are reviewing WSU’s existing crisis-related policies and protocols to identify potential gaps. We’re also referencing other institutions’ response protocols, which the Jed Foundation and SAMHSA identified as examples of best practice.

Our final comprehensive response protocol is intended to cover situations such as student death, attempted suicide in progress, threats of harm to self or others, arrest or incarceration, disruptive behavior, and other crisis situations.

If you want to learn more about crisis response protocol development, check out the Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s virtual learning lab where they cover how to write and review crisis protocols.

Campus representatives review mental health policies

Campus representatives review mental health policies

Thirty members of the Campus Mental Health Collaborative, including students, staff, and faculty, met last month with an expert from The JED Foundation to begin developing a comprehensive plan for suicide prevention and mental health promotion for WSU Pullman students.

The JED Foundation representative opened the meeting with the foundational recommendation that supporting students’ emotional well-being needs to be a campus-wide effort. From high-level administrators to part-time employees, we can all play critical roles in suicide prevention and mental health promotion efforts. Specifically, we need to support efforts that allow for early detection and effective intervention when a student is struggling.

In fall, members of the collaborative completed a self-assessment of relevant policies and programs. The JED Foundation representative spent the bulk of the three-hour meeting last month reviewing the WSU self-assessment and providing feedback in the nine key areas outlined below, as described in the JED model of suicide prevention:

Campus policies. Policies help establish norms, build awareness, and improve the quality of health services available to students.

Life skills development. Developing strong life skills helps students cope with stress. Some critical areas include managing friendships and relationships, problem solving, decision-making, identifying and managing emotions, healthy living, and understanding identity.

Connectedness. Research shows loneliness and isolation are significant risk factors for mental health problems and/or suicidal behavior. Students who feel connected to campus and have support from friends and family are better equipped to handle the stresses of college life.

Academic performance. Mental health is closely tied to academic performance, and the impact goes both ways. Stress from school can affect students’ mental health, and mental health issues can affect academic performance.

Student wellness. It’s important for students to understand how overall wellness, mental health, and academic performance are interrelated.

Identify students at risk. Studies show many college students who need help do not seek it out on their own.

Increase help-seeking behavior. Students are often unaware of the mental health resources available to them, feel unsure about insurance coverage and costs, or face some other barrier to seeking help.

Provide mental health and substance use disorder services. Offering high-quality mental health services is critical for preventing substance abuse among students and improving academic success.

Means restriction and environmental safety. Removing or limiting means to self-harm can help prevent suicide and improve student safety.

As a next step, the collaborative will identify priority action areas. Subscribe to our mailing list for updates.

Developing a comprehensive plan for suicide prevention

Developing a comprehensive plan  for suicide prevention

This week our Campus Mental Health Collaborative will meet with an expert from The JED Foundation to develop a strategic plan for suicide prevention tailored to our university’s needs. Our work with JED, a national nonprofit working to promote emotional health among college students, is part of our ongoing mental health promotion efforts.

At the meeting, members of the Campus Mental Health Collaborative will review JED’s feedback on gaps and successes in student mental health support at WSU, brainstorm new ideas and resources, outline and prioritize goals, and develop a written strategic plan for improving mental health promotion on campus.

In preparation for the meeting, we conducted an initial review of our resources, policies, and programs. The review covered nine critical areas identified in the JED Campus Framework, which combines the content of a comprehensive model for suicide prevention with expert recommendations on factors related to preventing substance abuse in young people.

Our work with JED is part of the organization’s Campus Program, a nationwide initiative providing colleges and universities with tools and support to promote students’ emotional well-being. Through the program, WSU will receive customized support for developing programs and policies that build on existing student mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention efforts.

To stay connected with mental and emotional health promotion efforts at WSU, make sure you’ve subscribed to our mailing list.

Providers trained to identify suicide risk

Providers trained to identify suicide risk

Healthcare providers play a critical role in identifying and evaluating suicide risk. The Washington State Department of Health requires certain providers to complete suicide prevention training.

Oftentimes, providers have varying levels of experience with suicide prevention. Training providers in the same suicide prevention best practices ensures all our providers are on the same-page when it comes to suicide prevention.

This month, 35 of our healthcare providers completed the Suicide and Crisis Intervention training offered by the Crisis Clinic, a Seattle-based organization offering emotional support to individuals in crisis or considering suicide.

Our providers work closely with students and are often in a position to detect suicide risk. During training, our providers learned how to asses and treat students and at-risk populations, such a veterans, for suicide. They were also trained how to evaluate an individual’s risk of immediate self-harm. The training our providers took is included on the Washington State Department of Health Model List of suicide prevention trainings.

Last fall, providers from Counseling and Psychological Services, completed the Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk (AMSR) training provided by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

AMSR is designed specifically for healthcare providers. It unpacks the five most common dilemmas providers face when working with someone who may be at risk for suicide, and presents best practices for addressing them.

Activities like suicide prevention training are part of a broader effort to prevent suicide of WSU students. Our Campus Mental Health Collaborative group is working to ensure the WSU community to up-to-date on best practices for supporting students’ mental health.

If you’d like to receive updates on the Campus Mental Health Collaborative, as well as other information about news and events related to mental and emotional health at WSU, make sure you subscribe to our mailing list.

Campus Mental Health Collaborative launched

Aerial view of Pullman campus

On October 27, we launched the Campus Mental Health Collaborative, a new group of WSU staff, students and faculty. The Campus Mental Health Collaborative will work together to implement a comprehensive public health framework to promote mental health and prevent suicide of WSU students.

In our first meeting, campus partners discussed two initial projects, SAMHSA’s Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant program and The JED Foundation campus program. These projects, and future efforts of the collaborative, focus on preventing suicide, destigmatizing mental health disorders and promoting help-seeking behavior in the long term.

At the meeting, collaborators from a wide variety of groups shared their ongoing efforts to support student mental health. Notably, student groups including ASWSU and To Write Love On Her Arms talked about ways they are engaging the campus community to destigmatize mental illness and promote mental health resources on campus, including many events and activities taking place this month.

You can find more details on our initial projects and our collaborators’ ongoing efforts in our meeting notes.

If you’d like to receive updates on the Campus Mental Health Collaborative, as well as other events and information on mental and emotional health at WSU, make sure you subscribe to our mailing list.

Show your support for mental health

Show support for mental health

At WSU, we want to create a campus culture that is supportive and educated about mental and emotional health.

Mental health conditions affect all of society, including many of us here at WSU. In our 2016 NCHA survey data, 34.8 percent of Cougs reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function in the last year.

This month, groups across campus are hosting events to raise awareness about mental and emotional health. Learn more and show your support by attending an event!

Mental health awareness campaign

To kick off the month, we’re partnering with ASWSU and student group To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) to host a mental health awareness campaign Nov. 1-4. Together, we hope to destigmatize mental illness and mental health problems.

For event information and mental health resources, follow ASWSU on Facebook or Twitter.

Campus Connect suicide prevention training

Wednesday, Nov. 2

This training covers facts and statistics about college student suicide, warning signs and how to intervene during a crisis. The training is free and all students are welcome to attend. Check out training times, and sign up on CougSync.

Keynote speaker on mental illness: Hakeem Rahim

Thursday, Nov. 3, 6:30-7:30 pm, Todd 116

Come listen to Hakeem Rahim, a professional speaker on mental health awareness, depression and suicide prevention. Hakeem will talk about his personal journey with mental illness as well as strategies to support, educate, and empower students to end mental health stigma. Make sure to check out #IAMACCEPTANCE on social media.

Movember at University Recreation

Join University Recreation for Movember, a month-long campaign focused on men’s health. UREC is hosting a full schedule of events, and all are welcome to participate!