Question, persuade, refer – The steps to take when helping someone who may be depressed or suicidal

Confronting someone who is going through a hard time tends to be difficult and sometimes awkward when the right words are hard to come by.

At the Suicide Prevention Training workshop last week, Suicide Prevention Coordinator Kayla Burke showed students how to approach a friend who may be having suicidal thoughts.

The workshop began with establishing the three main steps in helping a friend in need: question, persuade and refer.

Burke introduced statistics concluding that having feelings of desperation or hopelessness is common in the student population. High anxiety also tends to lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts, she said.

Some warning signs that the workshop listed included unexplained anger, alcohol or drug abuse and recent loss of a close friend or family member. Warning signs vary for each person, but the workshop emphasized that students need to take them seriously if they think their friend could be suicidal.

The first step to help a friend recover is simply asking if they have been having suicidal thoughts, Burke said.

“If in doubt, don”t wait. Ask the question. The longer you wait, the more potential there is for harm,” Burke said last week during her presentation. “So if you have that instinct right away, I suggest you do something about it as quickly as you can.”

The final step to preventing someone from harming themselves is referring them to the Counseling and Testing Center on campus and making sure they are committed to getting better, Burke said.

“You may have to help them walk to the Counseling and Testing Center or pick up the phone and call the number. The best referral is taking the person to someone who can directly help like a doctor or trusted adult,” Burke said.

An After-Hours Crisis Line is also available 24-hours for all students at (208) 885-6716.

There is even a Suicidal Behavioral Assessment Team (SBAT) that can be contacted if a student feels uncomfortable trying to help someone who they think may be suicidal.

The SBAT allows any student to anonymously report if they believe someone may be in danger of committing suicide. SBAT will conduct an assessment and try to help the person if they decide that further action should be taken.

The presentation concluded with letting students know that it is OK to seek help and that there are many on-campus resources available.

“It”s kind of stigmatizing talking about suicide so it”s good to let people know that it”s an OK topic to talk about and hopefully makes people feel less awkward,” said Alice Zhen, a student that attended the workshop.

This suicide prevention workshop was part of Campus Safety Week that promoted a safer environment at UI.

Jessica Gee can be reached at  arg-news@uidaho.edu  or on Twitter at @jaycgeek


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