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What You Can Do to Help

Following, are a number of strategies and resources for assisting a person who may be considering suicide. These suggestions are not a substitute for consultation and suicide prevention training with CAPS staff, however. We encourage all members of our community to participate in the QPR Suicide Prevention Gatekeeper Training Program offered by CAPS and to consult with our staff about specific students of concern.

Ask directly about suicide

Directly asking about suicide is one of the most important things you can do. When you talk directly about suicide, you are in a better position to fully understand that person’s experience, offer hope, and assist them in connecting with professional help.

For the individual, it can be relieving to express painful feelings and feel understood. It is best to ask specific questions such as, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” or “Are you considering suicide?” You will not put these thoughts into another person’s head by simply asking these questions.

When you talk directly about suicide, you show that it is safe to have a direct conversation about this issue and that you are willing to talk, and are in a better position to help because you have a clearer understanding of the extent to which the individual feels distressed and hopeless.

Encourage the person to seek professional help

The ultimate goal of helping a person struggling with suicidal thoughts is to get them to professional help. Additionally, it is important to seek support from others in the individual’s support network (e.g., parents, siblings, spouse, advisor, dean), as well as your own. You need to elicit support for the individual and yourself – you don’t want to be managing a suicidal crisis alone!

Persuading someone to seek help starts with rapport and a positive relationship, which can be developed through active listening. When you listen actively, you allow the person to talk without jumping in with solutions, make empathic statements (e.g., “You’re feeling very overwhelmed.”), summarize what you have heard (e.g., “You have been having difficulty getting out of bed and getting to class.”), and provide nonverbal cues that indicate you are listening (e.g., head nods, eye contact, “hmm hmm”). Although you may not be able to understand the other person’s pain, being available to them in a supportive, non-judgmental way, will help ease their suffering and make them more receptive to your encouragement to seek help.

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Connect the person to professional resources


Emergency situations require immediate intervention by calling 911. Examples of situations that require immediate attention are:


In non-emergency situations, you have a number of options to help the person in need:

Refer the individual to CAPS

Emergency Crisis Help

Suggest that counseling is an effective way to cope with the problems they are facing and that seeking out counseling is a courageous thing to do. A crisis counselor is available to meet with students in distress and consult with you during CAPS business hours. When our office is closed at 5:00 PM an on-call counselor is available by telephone (call 847-491-2151 and ask to speak to the on-call counselor). You could suggest walking with the individual to CAPS to see a crisis counselor and/or assisting them with calling to schedule an appointment. If they choose the latter, be sure to follow up to see if they attended the appointment and to express your continued care and concern.


Contact the Dean of Students Office.

The Dean of Students Office handles matters related to the safety and well-being of the campus community. To contact the Dean of Students Office, call 847-491-8430; after hours call 847-491-3456 and request the Dean’s on-call staff.

Fill out the General Concern form.

When concerned about staff, faculty, and postdoctoral fellows, consult with NU’s Employee Assistance Program.

NU’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program offers confidential and professional help for faculty, staff, and members of their families who may need assistance with personal problems. Confidential evaluation, counseling, and referral services are provided at no cost to faculty or staff or their family members.