Awhile back, we spoke with faculty at UMKC about student stress and suicide risk. Suicidality among college students is a very real concern, and the additional stressors brought on by COVID-19 serve to exacerbate what is already a vulnerable psychological state.

As September is Suicide Prevention Month, here is a simple guide of what to look for and how to respond if you suspect that your student, friend, sibling, or adult child might be suicidal.

Hand pushes button labeled "Help Me"


Academic signs of distress

  • Changes in grades
  • Missing class
  • Falling asleep in class
  • Missing or incomplete assignments
  • Decreased participation

Behavioral Signs of Distress

  • Negative self-talk
  • Isolation from others
  • Restlessness, anger, or tearfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Posting about mental health issues on social media

Physical Signs of Distress

  • Lack of energy/Falling asleep
  • Flat affect (no facial expression, speaks in monotone)
  • Change in appearance or hygiene
  • Comes to class intoxicated or high

How To Respond:

  • Be supportive; tell the student what you’re noticing without judgement.
  • Ask them if they know about the resources available to them.
  • If you feel that you have reached your capacity to help, refer the student to the campus counseling services.
  • Use appropriate, direct language; Have you had thoughts of hurting or killing yourself?
  • Take them seriously if they mention self-harm, suicide, or hurting someone.
  • Check in with the student; don’t ignore what has happened.
  • If they express that they are in danger of killing themselves, call campus police or 911.  
  • However, do not attempt to hold them against their will.


Contact us to set up an appointment for your loved one and/or for yourself. Our professional mental health therapists are here to offer guidance and support!

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