I am a Student, and I want to Help a Friend or Loved One

As a friend or loved one of someone experiencing suicidal thoughts, you are in a unique position to intervene. This person is likely more open with you than with others and may be coming to you for comfort and support. This guide is designed to give you confidence about how to provide that comfort and support, as well as how to identify signs of distress and how to assist and refer friends or loved ones to counseling for additional help.
  • THE COUNSELING CENTER

    The Counseling Center is a comprehensive psychological services center, providing initial consultations, counseling, and referral to UIC students. We offer individual, couples, and group therapy, as well as consultations for concerned others and psychoeducational workshops; if your friend or loved one is not a UIC student, the Counseling Center also offers information about providers in the greater Chicagoland community. Our services are confidential and available at no charge for currently enrolled students. We are also available to faculty and staff for consultation.

    The Counseling Center is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, with evening hours available by appointment only. We are located in Suite 2010, Student Services Building. Appointments can be scheduled or consultations obtained by calling (312) 996-3490.

    The Center is accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services, and its doctoral internship is accredited by the American Psychological Association. The Center staff includes licensed and board certified psychologists and psychiatrists, clinical therapists, psychology interns and externs, a social worker, and trained paraprofessionals. The Center has been serving the University of Illinois at Chicago for more than 35 years, and it is part of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

  • SIGNS OF SUICIDALITY

    Some common signs of suicidality which warrant a referral to the Counseling Center include:

    • Suicide threats or previous suicide attempts
    • Statements revealing a desire to die
    • Alcohol and drug abuse: sudden changes in uses.
    • Sudden changes in behavior
    • Persistent low mood, hopelessness, anxiety, withdrawal, desperation
    • Neglect of school work, personal grooming or other routine tasks.
    • Changes in physical health such as changes in sleep habits, appetite, weight, or energy level.
    • Personal crises and major losses or rejections.
    • Loss of relationship
    • Making final arrangements
    • Giving away prized possessions
    • Purchasing a gun or stockpiling pills
    • Perceived or actual lack of support
    • Ominous, dark, or vague social media posts or sudden withdrawal from social media use.
    • Academic concerns that may be experienced as failure
    • Lacking coping skills and feelings of Hopelessness
    • ​Identity concerns
  • PRACTICAL TIPS FOR HELPING SOMEONE HAVING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE

    1. If possible, arrange a private time to talk with your friend or loved one.
      2. Discuss your observations that led you to become concerned. Avoid being judgmental or making assumptions about the cause of their apparent distress.
      3. Keep the tone of your talk supportive, reassuring, and empathic. The success of this conversation has less to do with what you say and more to do with how you say it.
      4. Let your friend or loved one respond to your concerns – listen!
      5. Validate their concerns; remember, saying “That sounds really hard” is often a better strategy in this situation than giving concrete advice or trying to talk the person out of how they are feeling.
      6. Re-emphasize your support and care, regardless of how they respond.
      7. You may want to mention that you have seen other people struggle with similar issues, and that it makes sense that the stressors they are experiencing seem overwhelming.
      8. If appropriate, mention that there are additional people on campus who can help and offer to assist the student in making these contacts, including the Counseling Center (available at 312-996-3490; press “2” if after business hours to speak with the Counseling Center After-Hours Crisis Counselor). You can also provide information for the 24-Hour Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255)]. Click here for additional crisis resources you may wish to offer.
      9. Mention that receiving services at the Counseling Center is strictly confidential as protected by law.
      10. Though your friend or loved one may reject your offer of support or referral, remain supportive and remember that you need not be alone in your efforts to help. Feel free to consult with the Counseling Center staff before and/or after you speak with the student.

    Click here for examples of how this conversation might look.

  • EMERGENCIES

    If your friend or loved one is at imminent risk, call 911. If you are on campus, you can call the UIC Police at (312) 355-5555 or the UIC Hospital Emergency Room at (312) 996-7297. For additional hotlines and emergency services, click here.

  • CONSULTING WITH COUNSELING CENTER STAFF

    If you are worried about a friend or loved one, please feel free to call the Counseling Center to talk about possible courses of action and how to best help. Just call 312 996-3490 and ask to consult with a staff member. In the case of an urgent situation where you might want to walk a student over to our office, please call ahead if possible to ensure that someone will be there to meet with you when you arrive.

REMEMBER

  1. What you say is not as important as how you say it.
  2. Starting a conversation about suicide does NOT increase the likelihood that someone will make an attempt.
  3. Managing thoughts of suicide is an ongoing and continuous process. You can be an important connection for others to a higher level of support. Remember that you do not have a responsibility to solve the person’s concerns. Think of yourself as the connector, not a therapist.
  4. It is not uncommon to have a variety of feelings when helping others who are experiencing thoughts of suicide. Make sure to take care of yourself.