Concern about the possibility of suicide is understandable on any college campus. We know that suicide is the second highest cause of death (following accidents) nationally for people in the college-age group. To continue the work of making UW Tacoma as safe an environment as possible, suicide prevention is everyone's responsibility. None of us can see and hear all that goes on around us, so we all have to be alert to signs of distress in others. Understanding the risk factors, knowing the warning signs, and de-stigmatizing the conversation around suicide are strategies that we can all take part in to spread hope and save a life.
Hover over the myths below to see the fact for that myth!
Suicide can’t be prevented. If someone wants to do it, they will.
People can be helped. Immediate practical help such as staying with the person, sharing care and concern, and helping them get connected to appropriate professional support such as counseling can prevent suicide.
Talking about suicide or asking someone if they feel suicidal will encourage suicide attempts.
The first step in encouraging a person with thoughts of suicide to live comes from talking about those feelings. Thoughts and fears of suicide are more likely to diminish with compassionate conversation.
Most people with thoughts of suicide don’t want or seek help.
Evidence shows that most people will visit a medical professional, ask for help through non-verbal gestures, or talk with close support people in their lives when they have suicidal thoughts.
Get help by calling the free and confidential Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 988.
Stay connected in meaningful ways to the support people in your life and tell them how they can support you through this. Create a contact list of your support people and note the ways that each individual can best support you.
Take precautions by identifying the source of the suicidal thoughts and triggers for the thoughts, reducing your access to lethal means (firearms, drugs, etc.), reducing your stress and engaging in self-care, and consider lifestyle changes to prevent suicide.
Access counseling to treat thoughts of suicide and gain effective coping skills, such as Psychological and Wellness Services for current students.
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States. You can reach the free and confidential lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (or by dialing 988 beginning July 16, 2022).
Options for those who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have hearing loss:
For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255
Veterans Crisis Line
If you are a Veteran or service member with hearing loss, or any person concerned about someone who is, there are several ways to contact the Veterans Crisis Line:
Text with a Veterans Crisis Line responder – Send a text message to 838255
Online chat with a Veterans Crisis Line responder
Veterans’ Suicide Prevention Crisis Line
24/7 confidential crisis support for Veterans and their loved ones. You don’t have to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect. Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838255, or chat online.
The Trevor Project
Chat with, call, or text the Trevor Project. The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people.
Operated by RAINN, call 800-656-4673 or use their live chat to get help 24/7 for sexual, interpersonal, and relationship violence.
24-hour Pierce County Crisis Line
Dial (800) 576-7764 or text "HEAL" to 741741 for non-life threatening but urgent behavioral health crisis support available for free, 24/7. Anyone can call the Crisis Line – for themselves, a family member or friend.
Chat with or call MySSP for free, confidential mental health support from licensed mental health therapists with experience supporting the unique challenges faced by college students. MySSP is available to all UWT current students, 24/7, and in multiple languages.
Risk & Protective Factors, and Warning Signs
While there is no single cause for suicide, suicide most often occurs when stressors combined with health concerns create feelings of hopelessness and despair. Knowing the risk and protective factors and warning signs of suicide can help us recognize when someone needs help.
Ask them something like, “I’ve noticed that you’re going through a really hard time. I am concerned that you may be considering suicide. Are you having suicidal thoughts or feeling suicidal?” This may be a difficult conversation to have and it may be hard to say the word suicide, but it’s important that you do. Research clearly shows that asking someone about suicide does not inspire suicidal thoughts.
If your friend confides in you that they are having suicidal thoughts, encourage them to seek help. Let them know that you don’t promise to keep what they’ve told you secret because for their safety, you may need to tell a trusted and/or professional support person. Encourage them to tell a professional or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline themselves.
Help them reach out for support
Taking the first step in getting help can be intimidating. Helping a friend take that first step encourages them to get the support they need. For example, call the Lifeline with them or offer to be present. Find local counseling options together or go with them to their first appointment. Offer to talk on the phone and set a schedule to check-in.
Encourage them to stay away from substances
Substances like alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs can alter mood and contribute to worsening mental health and even psychosis. Using substances recklessly can be a sign that a person is moving from suicidal thoughts to behaviors.
Remove access to lethal means
If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, removing lethal means such as weapons (firearms, knives, etc.), drugs (including alcohol and prescriptions), and anything your friend may have referenced as a means to die by suicide can prevent suicide.
No institution can guarantee students will never attempt or complete suicide and no single prevention effort can best serve all students. At the UW Tacoma we implement many different strategies contributing to our overall suicide prevention program. The following are steps based on current research and best practice approaches.
Trained mental health professionals in Psychological & Wellness Services (253-692-4522) are available at no additional charge to all students enrolled at UW Tacoma.
Advanced training and supervision: Doctoral Psychology interns at PAWS receive specific advanced training and supervision in suicide assessment, intervention and documentation.
Referral to professionals in the community is provided when off-campus treatment is preferred by a student, or when staff are not able to meet treatment needs.
Psychiatric Evaluation and Treatment
Psychiatric evaluation and treatment is available off campus via referral from our licensed psychologist. CRISIS LINE: 1-800-576-7764
Campus Safety & Security
Campus Safety (253-692-4416 or 2-4416 from a campus phone) is on duty 24/7. Our Safety & Security staff can connect to other UW support staff, Tacoma Police, or Tacoma emergency services as needed.
Transportation to Local Hospitals
If urgent transportation to a local hospital is needed, but an ambulance is not necessary, staff in Campus Safety, Psychological & Wellness Services, or the Student Affairs office can arrange for taxi service.
No Weapons Policy
Reducing access to weapons is a proven approach to reducing suicides. Weapons are not allowed on our campus.
Former Quarter Drop Policy
If a medical or mental health issue makes it impossible for a student to complete a quarter, they may petition to drop their classes. The Former Quarter Drop process provides students with a method to petition for a grade earned in a former quarter to be changed to a Registrar Drop (RD). A grade of RD does not impact your cumulative GPA or academic standing. A Former Quarter Drop (FQD) may be granted by your campus registration team if you are unable to complete or withdraw from your course(s) because of extenuating circumstances beyond your control. See the link to the Registrar's webpage
Faculty Availability & Training
The UW Tacoma faculty have available to them information about mental health issues common in the college population and are frequently reminded about the support services available on campus. Periodic education and training in suicide awareness, prevention and referral skills is offered to faculty and staff of UW Tacoma.
The Safer Homes, Suicide Aware program educates the public on the potential deadliness of easy access to firearms and medications if available during a time of crisis. Diverse views on the task force, customized trainings, and resources support innovative work in reducing suicide.
Forefront Suicide Prevention is a Center of Excellence at the University of Washington that empowers individuals and communities through education and resource awareness, leads policy and systematic change, and restores hope to suicide loss and attempt survivors.
The Jed Foundation (JED) is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults, giving them the skills and support they need to thrive today…and tomorrow.
NAMI Pierce Countyprovides support, education, advocacy, and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives. NAMI Pierce County offers programs and support, education, resources, and events.