If you notice a student who is upset, by interacting with the student, you are well on your way to being seen as support.

While engaging with a student, we encourage you to ask open-ended questions about your concern:

  • "How are you doing?"
  • "Can you tell me more about that?"

It can be useful to promote the student’s sense of agency by asking how you can be helpful:

  • "Would it be okay if we talk about potential resources that may be helpful for you?"

If you have any sense of worry about the student’s safety, we encourage you to ask directly about your concern:

  • "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"
  • "Have you been having thoughts of harming yourself?"

It is a myth that asking a person directly about suicide makes them more likely to consider suicide as an option. Asking a student directly about suicide is useful because it will likely:

  1. Provide relief for the student who has been thinking about suicide but has not been able to talk to anyone about the experience.
  2. Give you, the helper, information about your next step. When you ask directly about suicide, the student may reassure you that you don’t have to worry (“No, I’m stressed, but it’s not that bad”), or the student may open up and indicate that suicidal thoughts are part of their experience. Both answers will help you understand together what next steps would be useful.

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