Posted February 2, 2012 by Justin Rudisille 

Instant Replay: Suicide Warning Signs and Prevention Hot Topics Round-Table

On January 25, there was a virtual round-table discussion held about suicide warning signs and prevention strategies. This program was facilitated by Connie Boehm from the Student Wellness Center and Caity McCandless from the Office for Disability Services at The Ohio State University. Here is a recap and a few highlights of this program.

Some of the statistics included a suicide pyramid, which showed that for every suicide there are 45 attempts and 250 people seriously considering suicide. At OSU in particular, groups found to be at elevated risk were male students, older graduate/professional students, international students, and returning veterans.

Also, while we commonly hear after a suicide that “we didn’t see it coming,” the reality is that most suicidal individuals tell someone and demonstrate clear warning signs. Warning signs that people can recognize in others include depressed mood, no interest in activities, social withdrawal, impulsive behavior, inability to concentrate, dramatic mood swings, and showing feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.

The staff at OSU had used the training and curriculum resources through the QPR Institute, (Question, Persuade, Refer) for a number of years, but recently developed a model of their own in order to address some additional areas that they felt were important.

They call this training program REACH, as it teaches members of the campus community to:

  • Recognize warning signs
  • Engage with empathy
  • Ask directly about suicide
  • Communicate hope
  • Help suicidal individuals access care and treatment

Through the REACH website, a variety of resources are available that educate about mental health, make people more comfortable talking about suicide, promote help-seeking behavior, and invoke a sense of responsibility to care for others.

At OSU, fellow students play a significant role in this program as gatekeepers, trained to observe and ask questions to peers. Some discussion occurred about this topic. While some felt students were important to the process because they are often closest to the peers, others wondered if this might vary by institution or student demographic. In some cases, for example, staff/faculty advisors might have a closer personal relationship with a student and better suited to identify potential concerns, while peer students might not be much more than fellow class attendees.

The facilitators went through a “victory exercise,” which asked the participants to envision a future campus environment free of suicidal behaviors and to identify some of the characteristics of this environment. One example victory was reducing the number of fifth-year seniors, as the emotional and financial stressors and pressures are often higher on them.

Let’s continue this important discussion.

  • What does the relationship look like between your union/activities office and counseling services on your campus?
  • What sorts of training or outreach programs exist? Who is involved?
  • What campus characteristics exist in your “victory exercise?”


Justin Rudisille

Justin Rudisille is the Director of Volunteer & Member Engagement at ACUI.

Justin coordinates the recruitment, training, and recognition initiatives for volunteers at all levels, as well as oversees research initiatives. He liaises with ACUI’s regions, the Volunteer Development Team, the Research Program Team, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, the College Union and Student Activities (CUSA) evaluation program, and the awards and scholarships programs.


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