Grizzlies Response: Awareness and Suicide Prevention

Pawley Hall
456 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)

How to Help Someone in Need

For Faculty & Staff
Many students initially seek assistance from faculty or staff members when they are having problems meeting their academic responsibilities. Others don’t seek the assistance directly but may display warning signs that they are having difficulties managing their academic and personal life. If you notice any of these warning signs:

Guidelines for Interaction:
  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Express concern. Be as specific as possible in stating your observations and reasons for concern.
  • Listen carefully to everything the student says.
  • Repeat the essence of what the student has told you so your attempts to understand are communicated.
  • Avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental.
  • Consider Graham Counseling Center as a resource and discuss referral with the student.
  • If the student resists referral and you remain uncomfortable with the situation, contact the OU Counseling Center or the Dean of Students to discuss your concern.
You may also have colleagues that come to you when they are having problems. The same guidelines listed above can be helpful. Faculty and staff can also be referred to the OU Counseling Center in a crisis situation or for short-term counseling. 
Help for Faculty and Staff:
 
Help is available to faculty and staff at OU who might be facing mental health issues or know someone who is. Faculty and staff resources include the OU Counseling Center, the SEHS Counseling Center, and the Employee Assistance Program. 
OU Counseling Center (in the Graham Health Center)
  • Provides up to 3 sessions ($20 each) to faculty and staff
  • Focus on consultation and treatment planning
  • Crisis treatment available 
Contact the OU Counseling Center for more information.
SEHS Counseling Center (in Pawley Hall)
  • All staff, faculty and students are eligible for general counseling services provided by graduate students in training
    • Excludes crisis counseling, substance abuse issues, court-ordered counseling and severe mental health issues
  • Services are free  
Contact the SEHS Counseling Center for more information
 
Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 
  • Available to all benefit-eligible staff members
  • Confidential, phone-based program handled through Cigna
  • Available services include phone support, up to 3 sessions with a specialist, and links to area resources
  •  The EAP can be accessed by calling (800) 538-3543
  Contact UHR for more information on the program. 
Building a Better yOU is a resource specific to OU based on the wellness wheel. It provides resources based on several dimensions of health (e.g. physical, emotional, environmental). 

Learn More About How to Respond:

Request a training through the GRASP program. You can request that you be included in an upcoming event or you can request a group training.

The OU Counseling Center provides excellent resources on how to identify and approach troubled students.

You may not be comfortable approaching a student or fellow faculty and staff member about whom you are concerned. There are other options. If you have a concern about a student, faculty, or staff member, you can:
  • Consult a counselor at the OU Counseling Center at (248) 370-3465
  • Consult the Dean of Students at (248) 370-3352 (for concerns about a student)
  • Use OU’s Report and Support feature (for anyone on campus). 
If you feel that an individual is in immediate danger of harming himself or herself or someone else, please call OU Police at (248) 370-3331.
For Students
If you see warning signs, don’t ignore them. They are usually indicative of something more than everyday stress. Peers reaching out to peers is one of the best strategies for suicide prevention. If you see the warning signs in your friend, do not ignore them. Students in distress are more likely to approach their friends before they talk to a professional. As a student, you might be in a position where a friend may share their feelings with you more directly. If your friend on a social network sends out signs of distress or threatens suicide, take it seriously and follow up on the situation.

What Now?

Reach out to your friend. Express your concern. Be direct and honest. Encourage getting help without sitting in judgment, acting shocked or suggesting that you have all the answers. And – above all – be available and listen. You may not understand what your friend is going through, but you can help him/her through it. Don’t be a counselor.

Learn the resources available so that you can provide your friend with options. Be persistent – because of the stigma associated with getting professional help for mental health concerns, your friend may not be willing to seek the help that he/she needs. Offer to call if he/she is reluctant, or offer to come to the first appointment. It is often the first step that is the hardest. Click here to learn about local resources.

Take Care of Yourself

Helping a friend who is struggling with a mental health problem can be very stressful. Recognize your own personal limits and be aware of your own needs for staying healthy. Remember, you are not a mental health care provider; you are simply a supportive friend. It is not your responsibility to save someone; your only responsibility is to care and get the person to help. If you need help, don’t hesitate to get it!

Learn More About How to Respond

Request a training  through the GRASP program. You can request that you be included in an upcoming event or you can request a group training.

The  OU Counseling Center  provides excellent resources on how to identify and approach troubled students.

You may not be comfortable approaching a fellow student about whom you are concerned. There are other options. If you have a concern about a student, faculty, or staff member, you can:
  • Consult a counselor at the OU Counseling Center at (248) 370-3465
  • Consult the Dean of Students at (248) 370-3352 (for concerns about a student)
  • Use OU’s Report and Support feature (for anyone on campus). 
If you feel that an individual is in immediate danger of harming himself or herself or someone else, please call OU police at (248) 370-3331.

Check out Half of Us, a collaboration by mtvU and the Jed Foundation to promote mental health awareness for college students. It offers a confidential online assessment, testimony from celebrities who have overcome mental illness, and much more.
For Parents
What can you do if you are concerned that your child may be thinking about suicide? Asking someone about suicide does not put the idea into his/her head. Talk with your child about your concerns.
  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide
  • Be willing to listen. Allow for the expression of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support. Don’t dare him/her to do it.
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available, but do not offer glib reassurance; if only proves you don’t understand.
  • Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stock piled pills.
  • Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Call a suicide crisis line, the counseling center, your doctor.
*From the American Association of Suicidology Fact Sheet: Understanding and Helping the Suicidal Person: Steps to Prevention
In this video created by the Mayo Clinic, teens describe common signs that a teen is considering suicide and provide encouragement for communicating directly and immediately for support and safety. It also includes suggestions for what to say to a teen who may be at risk for suicide and ways to keep them safe. Things get better. 

If your child is already at OU

Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to talk to him/her if you think that something is wrong. You may be in the best position to notice and address any difficulties that your child is having. Be persistent!

Know the signs and symptoms of emotional disorders as well as the warning signs for suicide. It is common for mental health problems to appear for the first time during the college years, so you may want to familiarize yourself with their  signs and symptoms

Encourage your child to go to the counseling center if one or both of you think it is necessary.

Enrolled students are eligible for 6 free sessions at OU Counseling Center. This is in addition to any other benefits offered through your or your child’s health insurance.Sometimes students can be reluctant to seek help because they are afraid that someone will find out. Reassure your child that counseling services are provided confidentially and that you support them as they reach out for assistance. You can contact the OU Counseling Center at 248.370.3465.

Find out whom to call at OU if you’re concerned about your child’s emotional well-being. It may be helpful to create a list of key campus contacts and keep it in a convenient place. Make sure to keep the list up to date.

If your child is applying to college

Think about the “fit” between a college and your child’s personality. Academics are important, but other aspects of a college (e.g., size, location, diversity, extracurricular activities) can impact how well your child thrives in all areas of college life.

Understand what mental health services, policies, and programs exist at your child’s prospective college(s), especially if s/he has an existing emotional disorder
  • What services are provided by the counseling center? Are there associated fees? Are there a maximum number of sessions allowed per year? Are there specialists (e.g., in treating eating disorders)? Is there a psychiatrist on staff? Does the counseling center provide off-campus referrals?
  • Is there a counselor on call 24 hours a day? If not, what after-hours emergency services are available?
  • Under what circumstances will the college notify you regarding your child’s mental health? What happens if you call the college with a concern about your child?
  • Does the college train faculty, staff, resident advisors (RAs) etc. to identify and refer students in emotional distress?
  • What kinds of educational programming (e.g., workshops, talks) are provided to students around mental health and wellness?
  • What accommodations are available through disability services for students with emotional disorders?
  • What is the policy around taking leaves of absence?
Learn about other available support structures. Ask about tutoring, academic and peer advising, education coaching, student activities, and career services. Understand how much support is available in the residence halls, such as the number of resident advisors. Find out how the college helps students to connect with one another.

If your child has been accepted into — but has not started — at OU

Be honest on the college’s medical history form about your child’s current or past emotional issues. These forms provide important information to the health/mental health practitioners (no less important than the rest of your child’s medical history), and they are confidential!

If your child is being treated for mental health problem before going to college, transfer his/her care and records to the OSU’s counseling center. You child may never need to visit a mental health professional, but the stresses of college can cause existing (or previous) mental health problems to worsen (or re-emerge). In other words, the start of college may not be the ideal time to stop treatment.

Find out what mental health services are covered when making decisions about your child’s health insurance. You may decide to keep your child’s existing health insurance or you may choose to purchase student health insurance through the college. When making this decision, consider the questions below:
  • Will your child’s existing insurance cover and out-of-state provider?
  • Will s/he be able to fill out-of-state prescriptions?
  • What outpatient and inpatient mental health services, emergency care, and prescriptions are covered under each insurance plan?
  • What mental health services are covered by student health fees (e.g., number of sessions, psychiatric care, medication).
Identify whether your child is eligible to register with disability services. If your child has a diagnosed mental illness, s/he may be eligible to register with the disability services offices to receive reasonable accommodations. This may include education coaching, academic accommodations, or other services.

Read the student handbook. This will include a code of conduct that addresses issues such as alcohol or other drug use and plagiarism. It also includes information regarding confidentiality of records and leaves of absence.

Adapted from OSU’s Suicide Prevention Program.
Community
The GRASP program at Oakland University recognizes the importance of raising mental health and suicide prevention awareness in our community. Many of our students are from Oakland and Macomb counties, and that is where they live, work, and have families. While some of the material on this site may be geared towards students or employees at OU, please feel free to use this site to find information or to get help for yourself or someone you know.

Hopefulness is the best defense against suicide. It is always better to overreact than under react.
  • Express your concern.
  • Listen, offer support and understanding – don’t worry about saying the wrong thing.
  • Don’t judge, argue, or act shocked by their plans.
  • Your genuine interest and support are what matters.
DON’T IGNORE THE WARNING SIGNS.

Reach Out: Always Ask.
  • Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide – asking will not put the idea in their head.
  • Be persistent but gentle as you get them to answer your question.
  • If you can’t ask, get someone who will ask.
NEVER LEAVE THE PERSON ALONE, IF POSSIBLE
Find someone else who can help:
  • Family or friends
  • Religious leader
  • Resident advisors
  • Campus police
Resources to get help are available here.  
Information adapted from OSU Suicide Prevention.
Social Media
Support
Whether you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or share your videos on YouTube, the reality is an increasing number of the population uses these outlets every day - often in lieu of face-to-face communication. With this revolutionary shift comes an increase in the incidence of people-at-risk using these media to voice thoughts of suicide. Social networkers who have never been faced with such serious and urgent crises can be placed in very difficult situations when this occurs. When suicide ideation is expressed in these forums, how should one respond? Are there guidelines or protocols that one can follow? Developing a response to this new but serious issue has taken on an urgency that needs to be addressed. 

(from "Suicide Threats on Social Network Sites" by Robert Olson, full article available here)

Warning Signs in Social Media Content

From time to time you may encounter a person who is expressing thoughts of suicide on your social media sites. If someone you know online is showing any of these warning signs, it is important that you post a message encouraging them to call the Lifeline. If you are friends with the person in real life or know where the person in, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can talk to a crisis counselor.
  • Writing about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Writing about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Writing about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Writing about being a burden to others.
  • Writing about seeking revenge. 
(from the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available here)

How to Flag Content as Suicidal

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has compiled a list of the top social media sites that allow a user to flag content as suicidal and alert the site moderators. The moderators will generally contact the user and provide the number to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, although each site has its own protocols.  For the full list and links to their reporting mechanisms, please click here, and see "Contact Safety Teams at Social Media Sites". 

Send an Electronic Message of Hope

You may know someone going through a difficult time, but you may not know how to best support them. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has an e-card program that allows you to send an electronic message of hope to someone you care about. There are several cards available for a variety of situations, including sympathy over a death or loss of relationship, to offer emotional support, or to let someone know you're thinking of them. Click here for more information on the program.