Responding to Suicide or Risk of Violence

Risk of Suicide or Self-Harm

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 suicidal thoughts or behavior.

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Risk of Harm to Others

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.

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