Stetson University

Campus Life and Student Success

Helping Someone in Distress

Know the Warning Signs

There are numerous warning signs when someone becomes suicidal, including:

  • Appearing depressed or sad most of the time. (Untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.)
  • Talking or writing about death or suicide.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Feeling helpless.
  • Feeling strong anger or rage.
  • Feeling trapped -- like there is no way out of a situation.

For more information, see's Suicide Warning Signs page.

Get Involved

Know that suicide is preventable. Talk about it.

Some people might be afraid to talk about suicide. They might be concerned about jeopardizing your friendship by reaching out for support. Instead, don't wait -- concern yourself with their welfare. It's better to risk a relationship than to risk someone's life!

Listen openly and be supportive, empathetic and non-judgmental.

  • Speak in private, if possible.
  • Don't act surprised or shocked -- this can cause them to withdraw from you.
  • Don't debate their perceptions or feelings -- everyone's experiences are unique and valid.

Keep talking and ask them how you can help.

  • Ask open-ended question to gain more information.
  • Offer hope that alternatives and support are available; don't try to "fix" the situation on your own.
  • Don't give advice, make decisions for them or tell them to behave differently.
  • Don't ask "Why?" as this can spur defensiveness.
  • Offer empathy, not sympathy.

Connect them with someone who can provide professional support.

Be direct. Ask them if they are having thoughts about harming/killing themselves or others. Ask the person what their plan to die is.

Don't be afraid to ask if the person has thoughts about suicide and/or plans to do it. You won't give them new ideas. If they have indicated (directly or indirectly) they have thoughts about harming/killing themselves or others, or you fear for someone's safety, follow these guidelines.

Never dare them or goad them to do it.

Daring or goading them to do it is jeopardizing their life. Never dare or goad them to do it, even as a joke.

Don't be sworn to secrecy.

Take action now. Get help from someone that specializes in crisis intervention. Again, it's better to jeopardize your relationship with them than to jeopardize their life.

Do not leave them alone.

Call for help. As long as it's safe for you to do so, do not leave the person alone. Stay with them until support arrives.

If You Have Immediate Concerns for Someone's Safety

If you have concerns about someone's safety, do not try to do things by yourself! Immediately call the on-call counselor and Public Safety at 386-822-7300. As long as it's safe for you to do so, stay with them until support arrives.

If the person threatens or makes a suicide attempt, call 911 immediately.

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