5 Dos and Don’ts
If you’re worried that someone may be considering hurting themselves, it can be difficult to know how to help. In addition to finding them help through university resources, here’s some advice to inform your interactions with that person.
What to do:
1. If you feel you cannot ask this person to seek help, take steps yourself to alert the proper people. This is the most important step – if you do nothing else, make sure this person either seeks help or that you have alerted someone who can help them.
2. Tell the person you are worried about that you do not want them to die. Saying something as simple as: “Please don’t hurt yourself,” “I don’t want you to kill yourself; I would miss you terribly,” “My life would be less full without you,” can help the distressed person think about their reasons for living.
Say, “I am here.” Listen to the person without judging. Consider a kind gesture such as sending a card or written message that lets that person know you are thinking of them. Many depressed people feel that no one cares for them; a small, kind gesture can make a significant difference. If you believe that a person is at immediate risk of hurting themselves or others, call 911 immediately.
3. Point them to resources. Become familiar with resources available to the campus community and ask the person you are concerned about to seek help. A list of resources is available at www.safety.colostate.edu. If you are an employee, consult your Red Folder.
4. Tell Someone. Follow up with university resources yourself. Make sure you close the loop with university resources if you are concerned about someone.
5. Act on your instincts. If you’re even slightly worried about someone being an immediate danger to themselves or others, take action.
What not to do:
1. Don’t say, “I know how you feel.” Even if you’ve been severely depressed or even suicidal, everyone’s situation is different. It’s very likely that you do not know how this person feels.
2. Don’t say, “Get over it.” Depression or suicidal thoughts are not simple to get over. Depression is a complex medical and emotional condition. A person cannot “get over” clinical depression on their own.
3. Don’t say, “There was a tornado in Arkansas. Be thankful for what you have and realize other people have it worse than you do.” This may make the depressed person feel like their pain and sadness is further diminished in importance.
4. Do not ignore warning signs. People who are depressed or suicidal often ask for help either verbally or with other warning signs. Take these signs seriously; they are a cry for help. Take action.
5. Do not keep it a secret. Even if the depressed or suicidal person asks you not to tell others after confiding in you, don’t keep it a secret. It is better to get them help than to keep the secret and they hurt themselves or someone else.