Pain isn’t always obvious
Sometimes it lies just beneath the surface
Text “HOPELINE” to 741741
Pain isn’t always obvious but most suicidal people show some signs that they are thinking about suicide. The signs may appear in conversations, through their actions, or in social media posts. If you observe one or more of these warning signs, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change, step in or speak up.
- Expresses depression, anxiety, stress
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Has increased conflicts
- High irritability/anger
- Crying often
- Engages in more risk-taking or impulsive, behavior
- Talks, or writes about, death and dying, killing oneself, or ending it all (Posts passive or active thoughts of harm on social media, in academic work, et..)
- Expresses feeling trapped, no way out or a burden to others
- Expresses excessive guilt
- Doesn’t tolerate praise or reward
- Problems concentrating
- Starts giving away possessions or tying up loose ends
- Withdraws from family, friends, and activities once enjoyed
- Expresses feeling lonely, not fitting in or rejected
- Increases use of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Not functioning like their usual selves (i.e., change in habits of how they dress, general appearance, eating or sleep habits, attendance, etc.)
- Harming self
- Extreme mood swings
- Asking about, or actively seeking, access to means to self-harm (e.g., weapons, pills, poisonous chemicals, etc.)
- Persistent boredom
- Change in physical health, such as increased complaints of headaches, pain, digestive issues, fatigue)
Here are some common Risk Factors to be aware of that can increase someone’s risk for suicide.
- History of family depression and/or suicide
- History of abuse
- History of various forms of trauma
- Death of a loved one
- Relationship Breakup
- History of previous suicide attempts
- Family conflict
- Mental health problem that is untreated e.g., depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety
- Access to, researching and/or excessive interest in firearms or other lethal methods
- Isolation from family and/or spiritual community
- Prejudice, racial tension, discrimination, or inter-cultural conflict
- Poverty and under- or unemployment
- Feelings of alienation, loneliness, shame, or inadequacy
- Loss of something meaningful (athletic sport participation, Greek involvement, et..)
- Academic problems (e.g., failing courses, missing classes, inattentiveness)
Content adapted from the Ohio State University Suicide Prevention Identify Risk and the JED Foundation
Talking about death or suicide
Seeking methods for self harm, such as searching online or obtaining gun
Talking about feeling hopelessness or having no reason to live.
STEPS TO TAKE
- Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Don’t leave the person alone
- Remove all lethal means (weapons, medications, etc.) from the vicinity
- Take the person to a nearby Emergency Room or walk-in psychiatric crisis clinic
- Do not put yourself in danger; if you are concerned about your own safety, call 911
Prepare for the Talk
Talking about mental health might be uncomfortable, but it can be a life saver literally.
Asking someone about suicide or harming themselves will not put the idea into their head just because you ask – it is always best to be direct. Being direct shows how much you care – and they are not alone in their pain. It can be a great comfort to know you are not afraid to walk alongside them. Remember that your loved one might be scared of suicidal thoughts. They may not have direct plans or specific timelines for suicide – but want a pain to stop that seems overwhelming or unbearable. Convey compassion and hope – and get ready to start the talk. Your loved one is worth it.
Seize the Awkward
Not sure what to say?
Here are ways to start the conversation
I’ve noticed you’ve been down lately.
What’s going on?
Hey, we haven't talked in awhile.
How are you?
Are you OK?
You don’t seem like yourself lately.
No matter what you're going through...
I’ve got your back!
I noticed you've missed class a few times.
Whenever you're ready to talk...
I’m ready to listen.
Seems like something is up.
Do you wanna to talk about what’s going on?
I know you're going through some stuff.
I’m here for you.
You seem to be having a hard time.
I may not be able to help you, but I can help find someone who can.
Trust your instincts – you probably have good reason to be concerned. Don’t worry about being perfect in what you say. The most important thing is letting your friend know you’re there, you care, and you support them. You got this!
Remember if a person you know seems to be struggling, reaching out and connecting with them could save their life.
TIPS TO MAKE THE TALK EASIER:
- Relax – remember you are talking to a friend
- Express your concern – be specific and kind
- Listen…really listen. Let them take the lead
- Offer support and understanding – don’t worry about saying the wrong thing
- Let them know they are not alone in this
- Your genuine interest and support are what matters most
- Ask opened ended questions – not just ones that can be answered with yes or no
- Let them know it’s okay to feel the way they do
- Avoid trying to fix their problems. Your job is to listen – no fix
- Tell them you won’t judge them
- Encourage them to talk to a professional – offer to help make that connection together
- Let them open up at their own speed. It may take more than one chat. Be patient
AVOID PROMISING TO KEEP A SECRET
If you have concern for your friend’s safety you need to tell someone else – this cannot be all on your shoulders. Your friend may become upset, but that is OK. Remind yourself that you care enough about them to do the right thing (which isn’t always the easiest thing).
DON’T DIMISS THEIR PAIN OR DISTRESS
Don’t be dismissive about the level of pain or distress they are feeling. Avoid saying things like “it will get better” or “don’t think that way.” Your friend is feeling overwhelmed – help them to know you are here to walk with them to get the help they need.
KEEP CHECKING IN
If your friend isn’t ready to talk today, let them know that you will keep checking in and whenever they are ready you will be there. You are not the only person who can help – remember when it comes to support, more is often better. Never worry alone – connect with the many resources provided.
After the Talk
You started the conversation – good for you! | NOW WHAT?
Keep checking in with your loved one and remember to take care of yourself too.
Maybe your first talk didn’t go so well or maybe they just weren’t ready to talk. That’s OK. Keep checking in and let them know you care and you are there to help. Keep the invitations going – it can be helpful even if they don’t accept.
You may be the first person your loved one has confided in – show that you care about being trusted. Be kind in your communication. You may not feel that you always have the right words – but send the message they are not alone and together you can get through this.
EXPAND THE CIRCLE
You can help to broaden the circle of care. You can ask “who can I call?” and let your loved one know that you can help them share their pain with another. It can be especially important to include family members or significant supports – as they are the ones to walk through life together.
Helping others with mental health struggles can be challenging to your own mental health. Be sure to ask for support – connect with a friend, parent, teacher, counselor, etc. Don’t feel that you have to do this alone! You have to take good care of yourself so you can best support others.
Remember to pay attention to what you need. Be sure to put energy into eating well, staying hydrated, and getting outside. Connect with your friends, hang out with pets, or watch a favorite movie. Look for the good in the world because you are definitely part of that!
You are not alone in helping someone in crisis. There are many resources available to assess, treat and intervene. Crisis Lines, Counselors, intervention programs and more are available to you or someone experiencing an emotional crisis.
Counseling Center | (920) 424-2061
Open M-F 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
UW Oshkosh Police | (920) 424-1212
Other Campus Resources
- Calumet County: (920) 849-9317
- Fond du lac County: (920) 929-3535
- Outagamie County: (920) 832-4646
- Winnebago County: (920) 233-7707
|National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255|
|LGBTQ+ (the Trevor Lifeline):
|Veterans Crisis Line:
800-273-8255 (Option 1)
|Espanol Linea de Crisis:
Text “4Hope” to 741-741
WISCONSIN STATEWIDE RESOURCES
Wisconsin-based resources available through crisis text line:
- Text “HOPELINE” to 741741 or
- Visit the Center for Suicide Awareness to be connected with someone in WI who can help.
- If you or someone you know are in crisis and need immediate help, call 911 immediately.
- University Police (920) 424-1212
- Text HOPELINE to 741741, 24-hours a day, every day. For free emotional help.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline available at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, every day. You may call for yourself or someone you care about, and all calls are confidential.