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Health & Wellness Services Division of Student Affairs

7 tips for talking about suicide

7 tips for talking about suicide

When the topic of suicide comes up, you may feel nervous or uncertain about what to say. You might even be afraid you’ll put someone at risk if you talk about suicide. But this isn’t true. In fact, talking about suicide, even if it’s just a short conversation, can encourage people who are at risk to seek help.

Research indicates that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. But it isn’t just the media that influences people who are at risk. Conversations and reactions to suicide by peers and community members can also impact people who are struggling.

At WSU, we want to encourage members of our community to get help when they experience thoughts of suicide or other mental health concerns. To make this happen, follow our tips below to ensure you’re talking about suicide in a way that is helpful.

  1. Offer hope by sharing about the many resources and treatment options available to people struggling with thoughts of suicide
  2. Share information about warning signs and encourage others to add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to their contacts
  3. Talk about mental health concerns as a normal, common experience and emphasize the value of getting help when needed
  4. Refrain from sensationalizing or glamorizing suicide
  5. Avoid speculating and sharing misinformation
  6. Avoid using dramatic or graphic language, including discussion of methods for death by suicide
  7. Educate yourself by seeking out information from suicide prevention experts

Do you want to take an active role in reducing stigma around mental health or learn about how you can support someone experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts? Sign up for our Mental Health First Aid workshop or Campus Connect.

These tips are adapted from Reporting on Suicide’s Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide.

Parents: Talk to your student about relationships

Dad and son talking

We strive to educate our students about violence prevention, but this is something we cannot do alone. We need parents, caregivers and mentors to join conversations about violence prevention and healthy relationships. We need your help.   

You may be surprised to learn that teens rely on parents, rather than friends, for guidance about these issues. We encourage you to have open conversations with your student—regardless of their gender—about dating, sexual relationships, healthy boundaries and consent. The key is to let your Coug know they can always come to you if they have questions or need support.

If you’ve already had conversations about healthy relationships with your student, we encourage you to continue.  For many, having these conversations isn’t easy and we recognize that.  It can be difficult and sometimes awkward to talk with your student about violence prevention and relationships.  But we promise it’s absolutely worth it.

To get the conversation started, keep it simple:

  • Look for opportunities to weave topics of sex, gender, dating and communication into everyday conversations. You could talk about a TV show, news story or blog post that relates to these topics, and ask your student what they think about it.
  • Talk about consent, and the university’s definition of consent in sexual interactions.
  • Reinforce that Cougs take action when they see someone in a risky situation or someone who needs help.
  • Talk about values your family shares, and what these look like in dating and sexual relationships.
  • Review WSU’s policy prohibiting discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
  • Ask about the Safety on Campus workshop your student attended during Alive!
  • Talk about boundaries, and let your student know that no one has the right to push them further than they want.

Even though your student is now an adult and has moved away to college, you still play a vital role in influencing them to make healthy decisions throughout life.

By educating yourself about this important issue, you will be better prepared should your student ever come to you asking questions about how to handle a particular situation.  Visit oeo.wsu.edu to learn more about the university’s process for handling instances of gender-based violence.