September 18, 2020

September recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

To help raise awareness and open the dialogue about suicide, September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to HelpGuide, talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

It’s important for everyone to remember that suicide’s reach goes far beyond the individual who is having suicidal thoughts and even actions. Those around them – family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, associates, etc. – are affected as well. In addition, although a suicidal person may not directly ask for help, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t want help.


The first step of suicide prevention is very important — recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously as well as knowing how to respond to them.

According to Rachael See, employee assistance counselor at the Center for Healthy Living (CHL) on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, warning signs of suicide include:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
  • Donating/selling personal items.
  • Having a preoccupation with death.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Looking for access to guns, pills, knives, etc.
  • Neglecting appearance.
  • Saying goodbye.
  • Self-destructive behavior.
  • Self-loathing/hatred.
  • Sudden mood swings or personality changes.
  • Talking about wanting to die.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.


Start a conversation. Giving a suicidal person the opportunity to share his or her feelings can provide relief. For instance, “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately, so I wanted to check in” or “How are you doing? I’ve noticed some changes in you and want to be sure you’re OK.”

Respond quickly. Determining if the individual is in immediate danger is important. HelpGuide offers the following suggested questions to ask to help assess the immediate risk of suicide:

  • Do you have a suicide plan?
  • Do you have what you need to carry out your plan?
  • Do you know when you would do it?
  • Do you intend to take your own life?

Determining the level of risk. HelpGuide offers the following risk assessment:

  • Low – Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won’t attempt suicide.
  • Moderate – Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan. Says he or she won’t attempt suicide.
  • High – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan. Says he or she won’t attempt suicide.
  • Severe – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan. Says he or she will attempt suicide.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273- TALK (8255) or online via the Lifeline Chat. The Lifeline provides free and confidential support. Additionally, Mental Health America’s Crisis Center Hotline can be reached via 765-742-0244 (call or text) or toll-free at 877-419-1632, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers a text option to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line by texting “NAMI” to 741-741.

The nearest emergency room also is a safe place to take a suicidal person for evaluation and help.

Offer help and support.

  • Help find professional help for the individual and encourage him or her to go see someone. The University and local communities have services and resources within reach to provide support and assistance. See the “Stress / Mental Health Resources” webpage for resources available via Purdue and surrounding communities. Be proactive in reaching out. Don’t wait for the person to call or ask for help. Send a text, make a call or stop by if needed.
  • Encourage lifestyle changes that will positively affect the individual. Things such as a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, getting outside and so on. Health coaches at CHL and Purdue Fort Wayne campus can help create long-term plans, set goals, help sustain positive changes and motivate and encourage behavior changes. To schedule, call 765-494-0111 or 260-481-6651.
  • Make a safety plan. Assist in developing a plan for the individual so he or she can identify triggers and follow the steps that are determined to be most helpful. Include the contact numbers for the individual’s therapist (if applicable), crisis center hotline, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and other contacts who can help in an emergency.
  • Continue supporting the individual long term. Keep in touch, periodically stop by to visit, call to check in and remind the individual that there is hope.

Additional information to help provide support to someone who is considering suicide is available on the Mental Health America’s “For Family & Friends” webpage.

Get training.

  • QPR Institute – QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer – three simple steps that anyone can learn to help prevent a suicide and save a life. A variety of training options are available. Purdue’s Office of the Dean of Students offers QPR training, including several sessions remaining this semester.
  • Mental Health First Aid – Purdue Extension has a team of certified facilitators of Mental Health First Aid (an eight-hour training to teach participants how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis) who are able to bring this important, lifesaving course to the campus community, organization or department.
  • Additionally, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers many training resources, as does the group Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) by providing tools to community leaders to help prevent suicide.

Get involved year-round. During September, when the focus is on raising awareness for suicide prevention, it’s easy to join in to support others. However, that support is needed all year long. There are many ways to get and stay involved. Share information about suicide and suicide prevention on social media to help reduce the stigma associated with it. Keep the dialogue going with family and friends about the need for increased awareness and support. Volunteer at a local crisis shelter or similar organization. Donate to agencies who work nonstop to provide support and services for individuals in need.


Questions can be directed to campus Human Resources departments or employee assistance programs (EAP). Purdue’s EAP is also a resource for those assisting individuals with suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Fort Wayne campus

Purdue Fort Wayne’s employee assistance program is available through the Bowen Center. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Bowen Center can be reached at 800-342-5653. For details on the employee assistance program at PFW, visit the Assistance for You and Your Family webpage.

PFW Human Resources – Benefits can be reached via: Email: or call 260-481-6840.

Northwest (Hammond and Westville) campuses

New Avenues, Purdue Northwest’s employee assistance provider, offers face-to-face and online support services. In an emergency, a New Avenues’ care manager is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-731-6501. For more information on the employee assistance program at PNW, visit the Employee Assistance Program webpage.

PNW Human Resources – Benefits can be reached via: Email: or call 219-989-2251.

West Lafayette

Call the Center for Healthy Living (CHL) on the West Lafayette campus at 765-494-0111 to set up an appointment with an employee assistance counselor.

Human Resources – Benefits can be reached via: Email or secure email at HR Help or call 765-494-2222 or toll-free at 877-725-0222.

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