Counseling Service

The Student with Suicidal Tendencies

Although suicide is a rare event, it is the second leading cause of death among college students. Suicidal states are often associated with major depression, a combination of acute anxiety and depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder. Suicidal people often tell people about their thoughts or give clues to others about their feelings.

Some factors associated with suicide risk are:

  • suicidal thoughts
  • pessimistic view of the future
  • intense feelings of hopelessness, especially when combined with anxiety
  • feelings of alienation and isolation
  • viewing death as a means of escape from 
distress
  • personal or family history of depression or psychosis
  • personal or family history of suicide attempts
  • substance abuse
  • history of self- mutilation

A suicidal student who confides in someone is often ambivalent about suicide and open to discussion.

Students who are at high risk usually have a specific plan, have a means that is lethal (e.g., medication, knife, gun), and tend to be or feel isolated.

If imminent danger of suicide is known or suspected, call University Police at (301) 405-3333, or call 911.

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Remain calm and stay in control.
  • Take the student’s disclosure as a serious plea for help.
  • Ask the student directly about feelings and plans.
  • Express care and concern, and assure the student that you will help her/him reach a professional.
  • If immediate therapeutic assistance is indicated, escort the student to the Counseling Center in Shoemaker Building, (301) 314-7651.
  • After hours or on weekends, call the Counseling Center to consult with a crisis counselor at (301) 314-7651.
  • Psychiatric and medical assistance are available at the University Health Center, (301) 314-8106.
  • Minimizing the situation. All threats need to be considered potentially lethal.
  • Arguing with the student about the merits of living.
  • Allowing friends to assume responsibility for the student without getting input from a professional.
  • Assuming the family knows that the student has suicidal thoughts.